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Attack of the flies


Flies and farming go together, particularly if farmers raise large number of animals. But the swarm of flies that has developed in the past couple of months in Bachmans Valley is beyond the normal summer nuisance. For residents, the infestation resembles a plague of Biblical proportion.

The flies are so bad that people have stopped spending time in their yards, children can't play outside and horses and cows are in constant motion as they twitch their muscles and shake their tails in vain efforts to ward off the insects. Residents have petitioned, held meetings and consulted with government entomologists -- all with little relief.

Two large egg-laying operations -- Country Fair Farms and Mullinix -- are generating the flies, according to nearby residents. The owners contend that the flies have always been around but this spring's wet weather produced a bumper crop of them.

Edward Lippy, one of the owners of Country Fair Farms, has been trying to cut back on the infestation by keeping dry the manure produced by his 125,000-bird flock and by increasing his use of predators that eat fly larvae. These actions have proven only moderately successful. Alas, the return of cooler weather this fall may be the only solution for ending this year's infestation.

Preventing future infestations is in everyone's interest. Imposing fines up to $1,000 or more on farmers who generate such nuisances -- as was suggested this past legislative session -- probably would not be very effective. Most farmers are as interested as their non-farming neighbors in keeping down the number of flies. Farm animals, like humans, don't like flies, particularly those that bite.

Infestations of vermin -- from flies to rodents -- constitute a public health problem, and government must play the ultimate role in protecting public health. It must step in to prevent the development of conditions that lead to fly infestations.

Local and state health and agriculture departments need authority to tightly regulate manure disposal and intervene if the insect infestation gets out of control. Farmers responsible for the infestations should be assessed for the service.

People who live around large farming operations expect to encounter some flies, but they shouldn't have to spend their summers indoors.

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