Missouri CAFOs Contribute to the Gulf’s "Seaweed Belt"

Is there a connection between factory farms and seaweed? The article “5,000-mile seaweed belt is headed toward Florida” (March 24) described 13 million tons of a seaweed that will be on the beaches of the Caribbean islands, Yucatan and Florida. Small amounts of sargassum (common seaweed) washes up seasonally. But the blooms are getting bigger each year. Predictions are that some piles of sargassum on beaches could exceed six feet.

Why are sargassum blooms growing larger every year? Runoff of agricultural nutrients from fertilizer is a big part of the problem. Sargassum growth spurts are associated with seasonal river runoff. Here is where Missouri makes its contribution of nutrient waste.

Missouri is now home to more than 500 permitted CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), with millions of pigs and chickens confined in large barns. There are unknown numbers of smaller unpermitted facilities. These operations produce tons of untreated animal waste exported to local farmland for use as fertilizer.

The volume of this waste is too large for land absorption and washes into rivers and streams making its way to the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico. This waste is rich in nitrogen. It feeds sargassum seaweed and algae blooms that contribute to the low-oxygen “dead zone” in the Gulf and to the demise of the manatees.

Nutrient waste from CAFOs is fouling Missouri rivers, streams and the Mississippi. Waste from CAFOs is poorly regulated. Is it time for a moratorium on permitting new CAFOs?

By Barbara Chicherio, University City, MO


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  • GreensKC Secretary
    published this page in Blog 2023-03-29 17:38:20 -0500