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The Issues


Because of the many problems associated with CAFOs, the American Public Health Association called for a moratorium on all new factory farms back in 2003. More recently, a two-year study released in 2008 by the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production outlined the risks of industrial agriculture.

There are many reasons to be concerned if there is a CAFO in your community.

Hazards to Human Health

The byproducts of manure and the rampant use of antibiotics pose a serious health threat to communities with CAFOs.

  • The ammonia and hydrogen sulfide gases produced by stagnating liquid manure can cause respiratory problems, nausea, diarrhea, headaches, burning eyes, confusion, tension, depression, and fatigue.

  • University of Iowa study found children are particularly susceptible to asthma.

  • Unsanitary, crowded confinements can become a breeding ground for disease. To fend off infections, non-therapeutic antibiotics are added to livestock feed. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, over 70% of all antibiotics used in the US are fed to livestock for preventive care as well as to boost growth rates.

  • In 2001 the American Medical Association warned that the rampant use of antibiotics in factory farms is contributing to the evolution of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which it considers a serious impending health crisis. We are now starting to see the emergence of deadly strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

  • A University of Iowa study published in 2009 has linked MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) to factory farms, finding a new strain, ST398, in 70% of hogs and 64% of swine workers in one Midwest facility.

  • In Holland, it's been reported that 60% of all pigs are infected with ST398 and 30-40% carry the bacteria in either their respiratory tract or skin. A Dutch government study found MRSA ST398 in 10% of its slaughtered pork and a Dutch journal also reported on a woman not associated with hog farms that contracted MRSA ST398 while hospitalized.

  • Similarly, a Worldwatch Institute report linked Avian Flu to the location of large-scale poultry production to nearby cities.

  • In 2007, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) warned, "excessive concentration of animals in large scale industrial production units should be avoided."

Environmental Damage


Animal feeding operations produce enormous amounts of manure - up to 20 times more than the amount of human sewage sludge processed in US municipal wastewater plants. Communities with CAFOs see the their streams, creeks, and ponds deteriorate as nitrogen, phosphorus, microbes, ammonia and antibiotics from liquid manure pollute their waterways.

  • Lagoon leaks and manure misapplied on fields can pollute streams and well water of nearby residences.

  • Agricultural runoff from spreading manure on crop fields winds up in local waterways from heavy rains and melting snow.

  • Accidental manure spills dump high volumes of toxins into waterways causing serious water pollution and fish kills, not to mention making streams, ponds, and lakes unsuitable for recreational use.

  • Since manure contains antibiotics, antibiotic-resistant genes are spreading through waterways. A study conducted at the University of Illinois discovered that some antibiotic-resistant genes found in manure lagoons are transferred "like batons" from one species of bacteria to another.

Local Economy Degradation

  • Property owners see the value of their homes and property decrease as much as 30-40% when CAFOs move into an area. One factory farm forces an average of 10 family farms out of business. County economies can weaken as people move away; local businesses lose vitality, and sales and property taxes plummet.

  • Hog laden tractor-trailers drive over roads not built to accommodate their heavy weight or frequent trips. The result is the physical deterioration of a community's physical infrastructure. And who winds up paying for repairs? Local communities do, with local taxpayers experiencing higher taxes and reduced local services as communities struggle to keep up with the extra maintenance. 

  • What about the economic benefits of factory farms to local communities? There aren't many. Few new jobs are created, new building construction materials are often outsourced, and the hog corporations, which are usually located out-of-state, pay no taxes to the community. 

  • In fact, counties that experienced increasing numbers of CAFOs did not see increased levels of economic development. They also may have lost the opportunity to strengthen their economies with other development projects, says an Iowa Policy Project study conducted by Iowa State University.

Loss of Quality of Life


For many people, what was once a family's cherished home or a retired couple's dream house becomes a prison. Many neighbors of CAFOs report they are unable to leave their homes to enjoy their yards, gardens, or outdoor activities because of the gagging, nauseating odors or overwhelming fly infestations the confinements produce. CAFOs are definitely not good neighbors.

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