Dear Editor: In his most recent column, Bill Berry suggests that Wisconsin taxpayers pay farmers to initiate conservation methods that will reduce agriculture’s contamination of the public’s drinking water. But we’re already doing that with federal, state, and local subsidies, and it’s not working. As he reports, a recent study shows that a sample of private wells in southwest Wisconsin — not an area previously thought to have the water problems of other parts of the state — found 42 percent of them with high levels of the bacterial and chemical contaminants commonly found in manure runoff.
Before more taxpayer funds are spent to prevent and clean up agriculture’s pollution, policy makers need to acknowledge that animal agriculture is by far the primary culprit. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that animal farms pollute our waterways more than all other industrial sources combined. And yet no other industry has anything like the penalty-free permit to pollute afforded to animal agriculture.
Its inefficient use of natural resources makes the public’s subsidies even less justifiable. The June 2018 edition of the journal Science reports that meat and dairy take up 83 percent of global farmland but provide just 18 percent of global calories.
The animal agriculture industry needs a diet: fewer taxpayer subsidies and more accountability. The rest of us can improve our drinking water — as well as our soil, air, and climate — if we consume less food from animals.
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