Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

Animal Farming, Pollution, and Community Health

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  • Health effects stemming from animal feeding operations pollution in the contiguous United States are analyzed using a 20-year, county-level data set. Several quasi-experimental, potential outcome models are used to estimate the impact of high concentrations of animal units on mortality rates and other health and economic outcomes over a 20-year period. This period saw significant federal regulatory policy development for animal farming and these policies are evaluated for efficacy. Over the period, the effects of high concentrations of animal units had some discernable effects on the community health as measured by mortality rates, but, overall, these effects shifted downward from 1997-2012. States with relatively weak prior policy saw a reduction in deleterious effects as federal policy grew stronger, whereas states with relatively strong prior policy saw no measured changes, suggesting that federal policy implementation was effective in localities with weaker prior regulations. The evidence of effects elsewhere, however, was inconclusive. Alternative economic and migratory outcome variables were also evaluated, but the findings of these models were also inconclusive. The efficacy of the current policy regime (which relies primarily on National Pollution Discharge Elimination Permits and nutrient management plans for larger, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) towards mitigating health externalities is considered along with potential policy alternatives.
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