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In Response to Burlington Hawkeye Article

In the October 11, 2015 edition of the Burlington Hawkeye, business editor Rex Troute published a column, "Tired of the Tears Over Big Hog Operations." The article was in response to the JFAN Annual Meeting. You can read a hard copy PDF of the article here.

In response, JFAN submitted the following letter to the editor. As of November 9, the letter has not been published. We are sharing it with you in full below.

The Facts About CAFOs Speak for Themselves

by Diane Rosenberg | Executive Director, Jefferson County Famers & Neighbors, Inc.

Rex Troute says he’s tired of the “crying over modern hog production, ” that we can’t go back to the old days, and should just accept industrial farming in order to efficiently “feed the world.” Anyone can throw out platitudes to make their point, however statements have more significance when they are backed by medical, scientific and environmental research. The Jefferson County Farmers & Neighbors Board of Directors takes exception to Mr. Troute’s comments and offers the following facts.

We’re going to have to change the way we raise hogs in Iowa because industrial hog production is destroying rural Iowa and infringing on the inalienable rights of thousands of Iowans to clean air and water and a good quality of life. And, yes, there are alternatives to CAFOs.

To address several of Mr. Troute’s points:

1. It’s a false argument to say rejecting CAFOs is just yearning for the “old days.” Many Iowans reject CAFOs because of the harm they cause to health, the environment, property values, rural economies, and quality of life – all documented in 50 years of scientific research.

2. Alternatives to CAFOs do exist. One example is raising hogs in hoop house operations using deeply bedded straw. Iowa State University researchers have found that the cost of raising hogs is comparable to CAFOs. The benefits? They employ more people, cost less to build, don’t need confinement pits or prophylactic antibiotics, and are humane. In fact, consumers are getting wise, increasingly demanding humanely raised, non-CAFO meat, opening up more opportunities for traditional producers.

3. There is no evidence that independent, traditional pork farmers can’t produce enough food without CAFOs. 80% of the world produces its food without the benefit of industrial agriculture reports the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Until the agribusiness expansion pushed out independent farmers, thousands of traditional family farms produced plenty of food for the US and beyond. Yes, we have a larger population to feed than 30 years ago. But had agribusiness expansion not decimated independent producers, the number of farmers would have grown to meet the demand, and rural communities would be robust.

3. The foul, debilitating stench from CAFOs is vastly different than the “smell of money” produced by traditional farms. Today’s hog manure putrefies for 6-12 months in underground pits devoid of air and light. It produces over 300 chemicals including 150 gases. Hydrogen sulfide and ammonia are among the worst, causing headaches, nausea, vomiting, confusion and respiratory ailments – all documented by peer-reviewed studies.

4. That some hog waste wound up in streams when hogs were on pasture is a typical industry talking point. But it’s an indisputable fact that the DNR documents a three-fold increase in impaired waterways over the last 15 years as CAFOs continue to replace traditional farms.

The health, wealth, future, and even heart and soul of rural Iowa are being sacrificed for corporate profits. Iowa needs more people crying for a change otherwise Iowa risks becoming the nation’s “throwaway state” for the benefit of agribusiness interests.

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