See our Photo of the Week (and archive of more) ... and the echo follows

Opinion Advertize Permission
To be notified of new articles Survey Store About Us

Local control and CAFOs:
a public health issue for rural counties

Family farm organization Missouri Rural Crisis Center
gives testimony on Missouri Senate Bill 1128

Bryce Oates
Jefferson City, Missouri

CAFO in Missouri.
CAFOs lagoons in Missouri.
A CAFO and its lagoons in Missouri. Photos by Nic Paget-Clarke.
The following statement by Bryce Oates, Organizing Coordinator for the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, was delivered February 12, 2004 in regard to Missouri's Senate Bill 1128 on concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs)

Good morning. I appreciate the chance to be here today, participating in the public debate on an issue as important as this. My name is Bryce Oates, and I’m from Callaway County. I’m here today representing the Missouri Rural Crisis Center and our 5,500 farm and rural family members in the state. We urge you to reject SB 1128.

We believe that Senate Bill 1128 is, first and foremost, corporate agribusiness’s attempt to stifle the democratic process. The bill puts roadblocks in place of two key tools currently available to Missouri citizens to impact the future of their local communities:

  1. Limits the ability of counties to pass local health ordinances that protect their citizens.

  2. Removes public notification of industrial livestock facilities from all but the largest CAFOs

Unlike diversified family farms, industrial livestock operations -- defined as CAFOs -- concentrate hundreds and thousands of animals in confined facilities. This concentrates livestock manure into such a small geographical area that these facilities threaten the air, water and soil in the areas where they operate. Many of the public health impacts have been well-documented:

  • According to the February, 2002, “Iowa CAFO Air Quality Study from Iowa State and the University of Iowa,” large manure lagoons pollute the air with many gases that can be harmful to human health, including hydrogen sulfide. Exposure to hydrogen sulfide can cause nausea, headaches, vomiting or diarrhea, and even life-threatening pulmonary edema.

  • Dr. Kaye Kilburn of Utah, is one of the nation’s leading authorities on hydrogen sulfide. He claims that even one exposure to the toxin is enough to cause irreversible brain damage. And he says the operational size of today’s mega-farms is the reason they threaten public health.

  • In Virginia and North Carolina, state clean water guidelines indicate that a safe level of fecal coliform bacteria is 200 colonies per 100 milliliters of water. Because of CAFO pollution, some streams have levels as high as 424,000 colonies per 100 milliliters.

These facts and others demonstrate that CAFOs are a real public health issue for rural counties.

Some self-proclaimed leaders of the industry -- who do not represent the best interests of family farmers -- will attempt to convince you that by allowing citizens and local units of government the ability to know and provide adequate protection for their community when these industrial operations are proposed is a detriment to the agricultural economy. However, the biggest bang for our buck is to support independent family farm livestock production in Missouri versus fostering further industrialization and corporate concentration of the industry.

  • An Iowa State study has found that family farms provide greater positive fiscal benefits on communities than factory farms do. Family farmers create 23% more total local revenue, produce 20% more net revenue for the state and pay 7% more property taxes than does one large unit of equal production.

  • A University of Missouri study found that factory farms create a net loss of employment because they drive family farmers and the local merchants that depend upon them out of business. 12,000 hogs produced under factory farm contracts would create 9.44 jobs (4.25 on the factory farm and 5.19 in the community), but they would displace 27.97 jobs (12.6 on the farm and 15.37 in the community).

  • Studies have indicated that when comparing an equal number of sows on factory farms versus family farms, the family farm system creates: 10% more permanent jobs, a 20% larger increase in local retail sales and a 37% larger increase in local income per capita.

  • Factory farms decrease property values in areas that surround them. According to the Iowa Attorney General, farms and communities within three miles of factory farms have had their property de-valued by 5-50% depending on the distance.

  • Most often CAFOs are contractual arrangements in which a company who does not even reside in the community retains ownership of the livestock and dictates the day-to-day management practices on the CAFO. This type of arrangement is inherently flawed, and can create an obvious lack of accountability given that the local operator isn’t making the day-to-day operating decisions on their land.

It does not make sense for rural citizens to be kept in the dark when an industrial operation that can have serious health, environmental and economic impacts is being proposed in their communities. And, it doesn’t make sense to place roadblocks in the way of counties who want to take pro-active positions that will minimize the likelihood for long-term damage to the health and welfare of their citizens. Local control is a hallmark of our democracy. We have to protect that right in order to have a system of accountability to Missouri’s rural citizens.

What does make sense is for the leaders of our great state to join together with family farmers to work for fair and competitive markets instead of simply providing political cover for further corporatization and concentration of agriculture. Again, we urge you to reject SB 1128. The future of our rural communities, agricultural economy and the environment depends on it.

Published in In Motion Magazine, February 21, 2004

Also see:

Email, Opinions & Discussion

If you have any thoughts on this or would like to contribute to an ongoing discussion in the
E-mail, Opinions & Discussion column click here to send e-mail to

In Unity/NPC Productions/Links

What is New? || Affirmative Action || Art Changes || Autonomy: Chiapas - California ||
Community Images || Education Rights || E-mail, Opinions and Discussion ||
En español || Essays from Ireland || Global Eyes || Healthcare ||
Human Rights/Civil Rights || Piri Thomas ||
Photo of the Week || QA: Interviews || Region || Rural America ||

Search || Donate || To be notified of new articles || Survey ||
In Motion Magazine's Store || In Motion Magazine Staff ||
In Unity Book of Photos ||
Links Around The World || OneWorld / US ||
NPC Productions

Copyright © 1995-2011 NPC Productions as a compilation. All Rights Reserved.