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Why Boycott Premium Standard Farms

by Paul Sturtz & Scott Dye
Columbia, Missouri

Premium Standard Farms (PSF), the fourth largest hog producer in the world, has been described by its founders as the "flagship" of the industry. By vertically integrating the production of hogs, it sought to revolutionize a business that traditionally has sustained thousands of farmers in the Midwest. The company's business and environmental practices starkly illustrate the threats to rural communities that these factories pose:

PSF Inc. is Missouri's largest agricultural polluter ever.
Seven spills of liquefied hog feces and urine have destroyed over 12 miles of state waterways and killed 180,000 fish -- more environmental damage than in the previous 11 years combined. What's more, PSF is the target of an EPA investigation because of its wanton disregard for state and federal laws like the Clean Water Act.

It has built a network of at least 26 earthen and concrete impoundments, illegally damming over 4.5 billion gallons of water annually from Missouri waterways. The majority of these industrial-use lakes were built without a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers. PSF has been repeatedly cited by the state Department of Natural Resources for applying hog waste on surrounding fields at rates that far exceeded permitted levels. Because of this excessive application, waterways are threatened with built-up heavy metal, phosphorus and nitrogen levels. PSF has also knowingly misled state officials with engineering plans that don't match what the company built.

PSF lnc. has shown it has little respect for the democratic rights of local citizens
When the little community of Lincoln Township in northern Missouri presented a petition to PSF notifying the company that it would not be welcome, PSF went ahead with its plan to raise 80,000 sows and millions of pigs there. PSF disregarded a local zoning ordinance regulating livestock and began construction on its facilities. It even sued the town for $7.9 million, charging that its property rights had been illegally taken.

PSF has muscled independent family farmers out of business
Despite $700 million in capital from companies like Morgan Stanley, Prudential and Putnam Investments, PSF declared bankruptcy last month. It still is in operation and touts its efficiency but in the process thousands of family farmers raising hogs have gone out of business. Last year, the number of hog producers dropped in Missouri from 10,500 to 8,500. Iowa lost 4000 hog farmers in the same time period. PSF's strategy of undercutting smaller pork producers by controlling all aspects of production has been destructive to the traditional fabric of local economics that relied on farmers to support other businesses from the sale barns to the lockers. A recent Missouri University study shows that for each job created at large producers like PSF, three are lost elsewhere in the hog industry. In addition, PSF means more strains on the three counties in which it operates through increased crime rates, food stamps and unemployment benefits.

PSF's production methods provoke human health and animal welfare concerns
Despite routine and massive doses of antibiotics, PSF's swine herd has suffered repeated outbreaks of disease due to confinement procedures that pack thousands of animals close together in small crates. The company's hogs have been plagued by swine flu epidemics as well as porcine respiratory and reproductive syndrome (PRRS). Questions have been raised about hazardous drugs like sulfamethazine used in industrialized production and about the possibly harmful drug residues left in pork. Some drugs like Mecadox are so powerful, the federal government mandates a 70-day withdrawal period before slaughter.

Published in In Motion Magazine - August 20, 1996