Posted on Fri, May 29, 2009
By Ken Midkiff
The Columbia Tribune
CAFO Outcry Comes from Farmers
You know all of those claims by proponents of agribusinesses about how
"urban move-ins" are filing the lawsuits against concentrated animal
feeding operations because they aren't accustomed to smelling fresh
It is all made up, a total fabrication, stemming from the fertile
imaginations of public relations people in the employ of agribusinesses
such as Smithfield/Premium Standard Farms, Tyson, Seaboard and
MOARK/Land O' Lakes.
The lawsuits are being filed - and won - by longtime rural residents,
most of them farmers.
Demographics show the trend has been for folks to move from rural to
urban areas, not the other way around. Although there are, no doubt, a
few who buck the trend and move from, say, St. Louis County to Putnam
County, these folks are the exception, not the rule.
In addition, because of their status as "newbies," they don't file
lawsuits. And, as far as they're concerned, the country air is supposed
to smell like that.
Not so with those who have lived in the area for a long, long time and
know the country air isn't supposed to smell like thousands of hogs or
millions of chickens.
Terry Spence has lived on his farm near Unionville for his entire life,
about 55 years, and his farm was handed down from Terry's father, who
got it from his father - the farm has been in the family for three
generations. But in the early '90s, Premium Standard Farms - now owned
by Smithfield - moved near him with facilities housing thousands of
hogs. Terry is not a move-in; he was there long before the hog
operation. Premium Standard Farms was the move-in, not Terry.
Rolf Christian is originally from Switzerland, but many years ago he
bought a 1,300-acre farm in Sullivan County. Not long after his
purchase, this farmer noticed Premium Standard Farms was building giant
confined hog barns upwind from his farm. He once opened his windows to
catch a summer nighttime breeze. But now he closes his windows because
of the smell. Rolf now relies on an air conditioner to keep cool and
rails against those who "stink me out."
Rolf joined with other farmers, sued and won. The judge declared Premium
Standard Farms to be a "continuing nuisance."
Darvin Bentlage is a farmer in Barton County and active in promoting
Angus cattle. He prefers farming his way, which doesn't involve raising
hogs that are owned by an agribusiness. Along with about 30 others,
mostly farmers, he has sued to keep out a large CAFO. His township is
involved in a separate lawsuit trying to maintain a vote in which more
than 60 percent of mostly rural voters cast ballots to keep CAFOs out of
Kathy Borgman, who owns and operates a bed-and-breakfast in Arrow Rock
and has lived in that small town for many years, objected to a proposed
hog farm a mile of so from town, saying that folks come to Arrow Rock to
view historic structures, not smell hog manure. She joined others, sued
Jim Reidel lives down in Barry County, not too far from Roaring River
State Park. He has lived there a long, long time and took great
exception to a massive chicken CAFO (65,500 pullets), not only for the
odor but for fear that the Roaring River spring outlet would be
contaminated. He, along with others, appealed the construction permit,
which contains the restrictions. The hearing officer agreed with the
appellants and issued a stay order, but the Missouri Department of
Natural Resources and the Ozbuns, owners of the CAFO, ignored the stay,
construction continued, and DNR issued an operating permit that allows
the CAFO to function.
Gigi Wahba lives on Sandhill Farm near Memphis, Mo., in Scotland County.
Recently, Cargill announced that it was planning 30 new hog CAFOs in
northern Missouri. Gigi doesn't think this is a good idea, as the scent
might stink her out and CAFOs have a way of polluting water supplies and
have a detrimental effect on human health. She has organized her
neighbors, and they are pressuring the county commission to enact a
protective health ordinance aimed at CAFOs.
By now, the point should be clear: It is farmers and longtime rural
residents that oppose CAFOs, not urban move-ins.
As Lynn McKinley, a farmer and former pork producer, says, in reference
to the CAFO next door, "That is no way to treat a hog."
Or, as Terry Spence says, "Sure, I raise my calves to be killed and
eaten, but I don't torture them in the process."
But that's what agribusiness is all about. Confining thousands of hogs
or millions of chickens in a small space, pumping them full of drugs and
treating them as so many units of production. Intelligence and the
ability to feel pain mean nothing in this system.
CAFOs are not farms. They're factories, using the industrial model.
Farmers are not factory workers. It is not farming that farmers object
to, it is the industrial methods used to raise hogs and chickens and to
produce eggs and the resulting harms to clean air, clean water, and
Hog and chicken growing? Staying on the farm? The contract spells out
everything. As an Iowa farmer said, "When you sign a contract with one
of the big boys, they control your every move. You are no longer a
farmer; you're a janitor."
But urban move-ins filing lawsuits? Doesn't happen.
Ken Midkiff is Osage Group conservation chairman and author of "The Meat
You Eat" and "Not a Drop to Drink." You can reach him via e-mail at
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