Monday, September 26, 2005

Agriculture, Pollution and Libertarianism

California is wrestling with the reality that agricultural activity is a major source of pollution, reports the Washington Post.

As a former agricultural worker, I concur. Pollution is one of the issues where I feel a libertarian approach to the economy would improve things greatly.

The article reports that one California legislator has proposed that agricultural operations lose their exemption from that state's clean air laws. I would propose getting rid of all the current clean air laws and setting up one based on property rights. If any business, agricultural or not, impacted the air quality of a landowner, that landowner would get to sue directly. Nowadays, landowners need to sue according to EPA standards, or hope to get a one-size-fits-all regulation enforced:

Residents have formed a citizens' group to fight large dairy producers. Tom Frantz, a Shafter native who heads the Association of Irritated Residents, said area farms are "like a factory in your midst."

"We're really irritated because our lungs are being used as an agricultural subsidy," said Frantz, who has asthma. His group notified farmer Rick Vanderham this month that residents plan to sue him for building a new 2,800-cow dairy without a Clean Air Act permit.

California's debate is not unique: Public health advocates in states including North Carolina and Iowa have pushed to regulate hog, poultry and dairy farms -- known as "confined animal feeding operations" -- with varying degrees of success.

The beauty of having a property rights-based system of pollution control is that non-profit groups could buy the pollution rights to areas they wanted to protect from pollution without having to buy the land itself.

Check out this article for a brief discussion of property rights and environmental protection.



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