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New JFAN LTE: JFAN Promotes Alternatives to CAFOs

Published in the September 6 Fairfield Ledger.

Given some recent public discussion and a letter to the editor about Jefferson County Farmers & Neighbors, Inc., this may be a good time to discuss how JFAN works in the community, some of which is out of public view, and why we do it.

JFAN developed a Good Neighbors Policy in 2006 after area farmers asked us what would constitute a suitable CAFO site. It includes the Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA) “Best Management Practices” written by IPPA attorney Eldon McAfee that advocates CAFO owners inform neighbors about their plans and work to resolve any conflicts and concerns. Regardless, most of the time neighbors don’t know a CAFO is planned until they receive JFAN’s notification letter.

When worried neighbors approach JFAN for help with a proposed confinement, the first thing we advocate is they talk with the farmer to discuss concerns and explore mutually agreeable solutions. There have been a few times this resolved a neighborhood CAFO threat.

JFAN tries to connect farmers to alternative models of pork production. We provide informational guidance to Dean Goodale’s company, New Legacy Pork, to support its development. We’ve made grants available to help those interested in alternative livestock production. This year’s Annual Meeting focuses on regenerative livestock and poultry options.

JFAN researched odor mitigation strategies and recommends neighbors discuss these approaches with CAFO owners. The problem is that contract growers often build CAFOs to supplement income, and any additional expense eats into profits. Case in point: at JFAN’s suggestion, neighbors asked Mike Keller, currently building a 1249-head confinement, to consider using odor mitigation technology. Neighbors reported Keller was reluctant because he was building on a shoestring.

JFAN persistently works to help and protect the underdog, neighbors who don’t have a right to say “No” to a CAFO that may threaten their lives. Without local control, I’ve seen neighbors ask, plead, beg a farmer to not build by their homes. Most build regardless because they have the legal right.

I’ve worked for years with people suffering from asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, MRSA, headaches, nausea, vomiting, skin irritations, depression, and more that developed after a CAFO was built. I know people who lost property value; lived in a sealed up house; gave up backyards, gardening, and entertaining; or walked away from beloved childhood homes or their retirement haven because the odor, flies, and mice became unbearable.

These aren’t anecdotal stories – over 50 years of peer-reviewed studies clearly document these impacts.

This is sad to witness. I have to ask, are CAFO owners being good neighbors if building when neighbors plead they don’t and continuing business as usual regardless of these harms?

Less than 3% of Jefferson County is involved in livestock production, most of which are hog confinements. How can we not try to protect the other 97% when we see suffering like this?

JFAN supports responsible, respectful, and regenerative livestock production. We are more than happy to do all we can to move Jefferson County in that positive direction.

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