Trimming the Pork

Livestock producers in the Midwest have had a rough time the
last few decades, to put it mildly. Facing dire economic straits,
many have turned to Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) —
large-scale farms that pack thousands of hogs into impossibly small
confines. While CAFOs seemed to be the only option for economic
survival, communities across the Midwest are realizing that, when
it comes to CAFOs’ detrimental impacts, stink is just the tip of
the iceberg. Now they’re taking their opposition to state
legislatures, pitting local communities against corporate
lobbyists.

The Chicago Tribune (registration required) quotes
Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon on community-based opposition
to CAFOs: ‘Farmers are not effete, Northeastern tailpipe sniffers.
When they complain, it’s real.’ The farmers are taking a hard look
at the spate of research that associates CAFOs with a laundry list
of adverse effects on human health.
Christine
Schrum, reporting for The Iowa Source
, rattles off the
results of studies conducted across the Midwest: acute and chronic
respiratory diseases, tension, depression, sore throat, excessive
coughing, diarrhea, and reduced vigor, to name a few.

Meanwhile, other studies are finding that public health isn’t
the only argument against high-volume facilities. While corporate
farming lobbyists insist that their operations bring economic gain
to their host communities, the numbers indicate otherwise. In a
blog post on
The
Rural Populist
, Brian Depew
cites research conducted at
the University of Missouri showing that ‘independent hog producers
support three times more employees than industrial agribusiness
producers do.’ Similarly, a study in Virginia concluded that
small-scale producers ‘provided ten percent more jobs, a twenty
percent greater increase in local retail sales, and a thirty-seven
percent greater increase in per capita income for those employed by
the operations.’

Local communities are taking action, fighting for countywide
bans on CAFOs. The Chicago Tribune reports that, in
Missouri, 14 counties have passed legislation to restrict CAFOs.
But corporate livestock lobbies are firing back in the legislative
front. As
In
These Times
notes, ‘factory farm interests have worked
aggressively in state legislatures to restrict the ability of local
government to keep CAFOs out of their communities.’

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Hog Wars: Missourians Raise Stink Over Giant Operations

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