The truth about CAFO expansion

Dairy CAFO expansion is on the rise. However, according to Professor Emeritus John Ikerd of the University of Missouri, that could very well mean the decline of rural communities where CAFOs proliferate. After reading his entire paper entitled Confronting CAFOs through Local Control, it was difficult to select only a few paragraphs of what Professor Ikerd calls “his truths” to summarize here. Please read these thoughts of a respected agricultural professional. And then take the time to read his entire paper linked below.

“Perhaps the most compelling arguments against promoting CAFOs as a strategy of rural economic development is that communities in which CAFOs become prominent typically are unable to attract any other type of economic development. Some communities, where CAFOs are few and are located well away from residential areas, may continue to grow. But people simply do not want to live and work in a community that other people consider to be “polluted.” By virtually every measure, the quality of life in a community declines after a community becomes identified as “CAFO friendly.”

“If any good is to come out of the current CAFO controversies, it may well be that the future leadership of rural America is being developed among those who have become politically empowered through their experiences in opposing CAFOs. Once people proclaim their basic democratic rights of self-defense and self-determination, which is what local control is all about, they become less intimidated by those with economic and political power. Local control is a cornerstone of democracy.”

“One thing on which proponents and opponents agree is that CAFOs completely disrupt the community life of rural people. Some have labeled this the most divisive rural issue since the Civil War. In many communities, multigenerational family farmers are leading the opposition, often pitting neighbor against neighbors who have been their friends for years. In one community, I was once told that everyone in a specific county had been identified as being either for or against CAFOs. No conversation was said to take place on the county courthouse square that did not include a discussion of CAFOs. Communities that were once effective in working together on community and economic development efforts have been paralyzed by internal dissention. It’s becomes difficult, if not impossible, to gain public support for schools, health care, roads, and other public services because anything proposed by those on one side of the CAFO issue is opposed by those on the other. The people of every “CAFO community” I have visited have validated this fact: CAFOs destroy the social fabric of rural communities.”

“I have never experienced any other issue that is so divisive in more than 35 years of working with farmers and others in rural communities. I eventually concluded, my truth, the CAFO controversy violates an important rural ethic. Rural people accept the fact that some members of their communities succeed, while others do not. So the resentment is not of some people making money while others don’t. People may be a bit jealous, but if their lives are not made worse by someone else’s success, they accept it. However, the CAFO issue is different. The people who live downwind or downstream from a CAFO know first-hand that their health and overall quality of life is being threatened by their neighbor’s desire to make money. People also know that property located near CAFOs will be devalued, even if no one lives there. They understand that economic opportunities for their community are limited because they live in a “CAFO friendly” community. Apparently, it is a violation of an important rural ethic for one person to benefit at the expense of his or her neighbors’ well-being. Rural people take such violations very seriously.”

“Once rural people have reclaimed their right to maintain or restore a clean and healthy environment, they can begin the task of rebuilding an economic, social, and ecological foundation needed for sustainable community development. The future of rural America is in the land and the imagination, creativity, work ethic, and honesty of the people of rural communities, not in the cunning and conniving of outside corporate investors. Rural people must find the courage to reclaim their communities from corporate, industrial agriculture. Rural people must be willing invest their time, their energy, their intellect, their money, and their integrity in restoring and maintaining the health and productivity of their land and their environment. Now is the time for the people of rural communities to demand their democratic rights of self-defense and self-determination and to regain control over their destiny.”

To read the entire paper by Professor Emeritus Ikerd, click on this link–%20Local%20Control.htm


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