Thursday, June 17, 2010

8 Reasons Why CAFOs Are Not The Work Of Pure Evil

This should get a rise out of some people but that is not why I'm posting it. I truly believe that Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) have a place in agriculture. By no means am I saying there is no room for pasture pigs anymore. I'm saying there is a place for us both. Of course it goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway) that these facilities must be treated with the utmost care and responsibility. CAFOs are not for those who simply wish to make a quick buck or for those who suffer from heavy haunches, i.e., those who would rather sit on their ass than actually work. CAFOs and farming in general is not a lazy man's work! Despite the rumors you can not just set up a camera and watch the pigs from the comfort of your home nor can you just visit the site a few hours a week and expect to have a smooth running operation. Raising hogs requires 24 hours a day, seven days a week commitment, anything less just won't do.

For these reasons I am posting 8 reasons why CAFOs are not the work of pure evil.

1. Contracting hogs has allowed our family to not only remain on the farm but expand it as well.
Because of our hog barns the farm has grown from 80 acres to nearly 600 and the farm can finally afford to employ the whole family. That means four separate households are being supported by one farm. This would not have been possible if we opted out of contract hogs.

2. CAFOs provide an "in" for new farmers.
Because the hogs are contracted new farmers no longer have to rely on the market which means a guaranteed paycheck and minimized financial risks. One big complaint I've heard is these big operations push farmers off the land. Not true. Not all but many companies do not buy the land from the farmer; instead, they contract with the farmer, i.e. the land, buildings, and profit are the property of the farmer, only the pigs belong to the company.

3. Provides organic, renewable, and sustainable fertilizer.
Our barns supply our farm, along with neighboring farms, with an organic (definition: characteristic of, pertaining to, or derived from living organisms), renewable fertilizer--unlike anhydrous ammonia, a petroleum based product. Our fertilizer is rich in organic materials and nutrients that is actually rebuilding the topsoil and producing high yields year after year. Anhydrous only adds nitrogen to the soil, it does not work to rebuild. 

4. Greater control over the health of the hog. 
Because the animals are confined it allows greater control and less threat of diseases, especially air borne diseases. Confinement has also eliminated the need to worm hogs and the use of nose rings. Despite the big H1N1 scare CAFOs do not create new diseases. We can actually monitor the health of the pigs much closer and treat them faster by having them in the barns. In addition, because the hogs are contracted we have access to supplies, veterinarians, and specialists that we other wise couldn't afford.

5. CAFOs create jobs.
Other, larger, CAFO operations employ thousands of people. For example, we run approximately 26,000 head a year and employ six family members; whereas, Smithfield/PSF in north MO run millions a year and employ over 1,000 people in just one location. These facilities create jobs for Missourians, not illegal Mexicans.

6. Stimulate the local and federal economy.
Pork is the most widely eaten meat across the globe and the United States is the third largest swine producer in the world. Missouri provides about five percent of the U.S. hogs. We're talking about hundreds of millions of dollars worth of pork being raised here in good  'ol USA. We're also talking about hundreds of millions of taxable dollars which go towards schools, roads, parks, etc. Just our farm alone pays thousands a year in local taxes. That's a big hunk-o-change that I'm sure our county would hate to lose.

7. Allows for "green" experimentation and new technologies.
Farmers and agribusinesses strive to improve agriculture, it's what we do. Lately, a greater emphasis has also been put on ecological impact. Because of this, corporations are working harder than ever to create innovative "green" technology and CAFOs have been a breeding ground for innovation. Most recently, St. Louis paved a stretch of highway using asphalt made out of hog manure. Another innovative concept sweeping across the market is the potential in methane gas as an energy source.

8. The ability to raise more on smaller land mass.
Many may argue that this is a bad thing but let's put it in perspective. The world already holds over 6 billion hungry people and that number is only going to go up. People need a place to live and to have a home you must have land but the world isn't growing, just the people in it. Therefore, it is safe to assume more people equals less land but it also equals more mouths to feed. By confining hogs we can raise 4,800 head in 29,700 square feet or a little over one acre. Raising pasture hogs, using traditional methods you would need around 200 acres. It's a big difference.

As always I am open to comments.

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