One CAFO not better than another
As I campaign throughout Greene County for District 2 supervisor and learn from voters about the issues they care about, I am reassured that my priorities easily fit into the framework to find solutions.
Those priorities are building on the strengths of our family farms and rural communities; using open communication, citizen involvement and thorough research to inform my decisions; and welcoming diverse people, ideas and skills to encourage economic opportunities so we can all thrive.
One concern looming over rural counties like ours is the issue of increasing numbers of hog confinements, or CAFOs, and the serious consequences of that model of livestock production, including degradation of air and water quality, risks to public health, loss of family farms and the fracture of our relationship to livestock and to nature.
These consequences affect all of us in this county as we struggle to attract economic growth, new residents and tourism.
My position on hog confinements is clear.
After more than 20 years of learning about their negative impacts, I have no doubt that this county has more than enough CAFOs already.
It is not a question of whether one CAFO is better than another; it is about challenging the system of pork production that exploits our environment and our labor from the time the piglet is born to the time the meat reaches our dinner tables.
When a farmer, or a pork-producer corporation, or an LLC with hidden ownership wants to build a new CAFO, Iowa regulations require it to submit a master matrix for manure management to the county. It must receive a certain number of points to pass.
However, the master matrix does not adequately measure the risks to our community or the environment, even when receiving a passing score. Nor does it take into account the number of these animal facilities in a specified area.
If elected as Greene County supervisor, when an application for a new or expanding CAFO comes before me, I will exercise my right as an elected official and will vote No.
I will not, however, let that vote prevent me from fully analyzing the master matrix for the proposed CAFO, and ensure that if it is approved, that all questions are answered, neighbors are informed and heard, and that best practices are in place.
In some cases, my No vote will be symbolic.
However, I know there are many residents of our county who are unable or unwilling to speak up, and will appreciate that vote.
I will also encourage my fellow county supervisors to follow the lead of other counties and call for a statewide moratorium on new and expanding CAFOs.
It’s time that we dispel the myth that building a hog confinement is a good way for a young person to get into farming.
The price tag for these facilities is huge.
Loans are only approved with the appropriate down payment and with the assurance of cash flow with a contract from the integrator, or the owner of the pigs. The farmer owns the facility, not the pigs. For the next 10 years or more, he must rely on the company that supplies those pigs.
One Iowa lawyer who has reviewed these contracts has called them “forms of indentured servitude for farmers on their own farms.”
The economic situation that a CAFO owner has experienced in the past is not necessarily what will be true tomorrow. A hog CAFO can only be used for one thing — raising pigs. There is no flexibility to do anything different when the economics of the CAFO change. The young person is locked into that system.
Why put a young person in that position when there are other alternatives?
Why allow our county, with some of the richest soil in the world, to be dominated by hog confinements and wind turbines?
We can come together to find other ways that will build our rural population and our economic opportunities.
We can have community-owned energy projects where the benefits stay here instead of sending the profits to an already highly-profitable company.
We can find ways to support young farmers who want to raise livestock in ecologically sound ways.
Those solutions will be found through democratic processes that bring in new ideas that build on our agriculture heritage and our desire for a bright future for all of us.
As Greene County supervisor, I would work for that future.
Patti Naylor, of Churdan, is a Democratic candidate for Greene County supervisor.