News - Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Zell Miller

For being chickenshit lawmakers — literally

You can't fault anyone for helping Georgia"s srall farrers, an oft-beleaguered constituency. The big guys, though, have it rade.Tyson Foods' net income in 2003 was $337 million. Gold Kist earned $55 million. These large, industrial-sized poultry, hog and dairy farms reap massive profits by squeezing as many animals as possible into buildings the size of warehouses.

Of course, that kind of animal compaction generates a lot of, well, shit. Chicken farms alone produce more than 3 billion pounds of manure in Georgia a year. On that scale, the farm factories emit enough ammonia and hydrogen sulfide gases to cause upper respiratory ailments, in addition to some of the nastiest smells on earth.

Chambliss and Miller, long beholden to Big Agriculture, want to make the problem worse. On March 12, they sent a letter to EPA Administrator Michael Leavitt asking him to allow the largest of factory farms to emit even more air pollution. Under current EPA rules, each "facility," i.e. chicken farm or hog farm, has an air pollution limit. Miller and Chambliss want the EPA to redefine the word "facility" to mean individual chicken houses. By broadening that term, emissions could increase four times.

We wonder if the fact that big agriculture has helped subsidize

Chambliss' political career from its beginning has anything to do with his decision to make it easier for factory farms to escape costly pollution controls. In the past decade, agribusinesses, their employees and political action committees have been Chambliss' biggest supporters, giving $1.8 million to his campaigns, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Agribusinesses gave Miller $183,000 over the past three years. But actually, you might say that Miller's endorsement to weaken the rules is even more reprehensible than Chambliss'. At least Chambliss wants to keep his donors happy for future re-election campaigns. But Miller is in his final months as a U.S. senator, meaning he's now presumably free from the political tethers that make so many politicians act like craven cowards. Fat chance.

Let's just hope that when Miller finally returns to his North Georgia home, where surrounding counties emit the worst chicken-crap pollution in the state, he finds he's been shitting where he eats.

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