Not long ago in Jefferson County, hogs grazed on pastures. A-frame farrowing huts dotted the countryside. Many small farms flourished, supporting a greater number of families who had agriculture in their blood for generations. A rich rural fabric linked community members.
This was farming.
Now, one is hard pressed to find such farmsteads. Instead, we have industrial operations that cram hogs into buildings, collecting waste products in underground pits holding 500,000 to 1,000,000 gallons of liquid manure that generates over 300 toxins. This putrid soup is then spread on neighborhood fields. These Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) bear no resemblance to what most people think of as farming. Rather, they have pushed traditional, independent farmers out of business and co-opted the bucolic image that resonates in the minds of most Americans.
Aleta Mottet’s April 16 letter says Jefferson County is a farming community. When it comes to livestock production, I would beg to differ that CAFOs are “farms.” Instead, CAFOs are toxic industrial operations, mass-producing meat products at a great expense to local communities.
The neighborhoods Jefferson County Farmers & Neighbors (JFAN) helps are not comprised of residents who moved into homes near hog confinements and then began complaining. They are rural families who lived there first, enjoying their homes, their yards, their quality of life, their health, before an uninvited, infringing CAFO moved in and began spewing noxious odors and particulates into the air, making their lives miserable.
They are the ones whose quality of life plummets, who can’t open windows, who gag and gasp from unbearable odors. These are neighbors who used to live peacefully next to traditional, independent farms. These are the people who say, one after the other, “Why don’t I have any rights anymore?”
In her letter, Ms. Mottet also questions the connection between the antibiotic resistant infection that almost killed Lynnea Ellison and CAFOs. While we don’t know the specifics in Ms. Ellison’s case, the following is a tiny sampling of what we do know about CAFOs and community-acquired MRSA:
• A 2014 University of Iowa study found that people living within a mile of a CAFO with 2500 or more hogs were 2.76 times more likely to colonize MRSA. Those carrying MRSA have a greater chance of contracting it.
• A recent Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study found 11 percent of MRSA and soft tissue infections in individuals were linked to living next to fields where swine manure was applied.
• A Texas Tech study found wind blows dust containing tiny particles of antibiotics, fecal bacteria, and antibiotic-resistant gene sequences far from factory farms.
With MRSA killing more people every year than AIDS, it’s understandable why one would be concerned that CAFOs pose a public health threat.
The neighbors JFAN works with don’t have a problem with the way things are done on a farm. They do have a problem with the way things are done in an industrial animal factory. They are not the ones that should be asked to move.
The following letter by Jefferson County resident Marj Van Winkle also appeared in the May 7, 2015 edition of the Fairfield Ledger
Regarding CAFOs, We Were Here First
By Marj Van Winkle | May 7, 2015
Regarding the letter from Aleta Mottet about Supervisor Lee Dimmitt saying “People are building homes where agriculture conducts their business:” Ms. Mottet says, “People come into this community, move near a farm, then start complaining it’s the farmer’s fault they can’t stand the smell.”
That isn’t always how it works. We have farmed here in Jefferson County for 58 years. Eight large hog CAFOs have been built around us and the owners don’t live anywhere near here.
We raised hogs for 40 years the correct way. They had access to our grain, pasture and sunshine. No ractopamine, no tylosin. We didn’t spread raw sewage all over the neighborhood. We didn’t pile dead hogs out in front in a dumpster.
When we drive around the neighborhood now, we can hear the pigs screaming in the CAFOs and the smell is horrendous.
I attended the Jefferson County Board of Supervisors’ meeting that Ms. Mottet speaks of. The supervisors were merely
trying to find a solution to the problems caused by factory farms.
We were here first.