Neighbors and local governments are increasingly fed up with the stinky, unhealthy conditions of the huge dairy operations on the Snake River Plain. One of the world’s largest cheesemakers, Ireland’s Glanbia Inc., recently wanted to expand its operations near Twin Falls, but local opposition — in the form of heated public meetings and two counties’ reluctance to grant permits — caused the company to change its plans. It’s now building a cheese plant in Clovis, N.M., that will process 6.6 million pounds of milk a day.
Meanwhile, Idaho’s state government continues
to back the mega-dairies. Last spring, for example, industry
lobbying persuaded the Legislature to weaken a key water law that
had been used against dairy expansions. In the past, whenever
dairies sought more groundwater or water transfers, opponents took
the opportunity to raise many other issues, under a broad "local
public interest" right that is a standard in Western water law.
Now, such protests in Idaho must be based strictly on water impacts
and economics. Critics cannot talk about ammonia and hydrogen
sulfide emissions, contaminated dust, flies or other impacts from
"The big boys were affronted by the
audacity of (the) public," says Bill Chisholm, an environmentalist
who helps dairies’ neighbors file protests. Water law "was
the only place we had recourse, and they took it away from