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E-M:/ RE: / Right to Farm and Takings



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Enviro-Mich message from anne.woiwode@sfsierra.sierraclub.org
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Craig

Sorry to take a while to respond to this message(see original message below).
I would suggest that the critical question is not whether a change has
occurred, but whether that change has an adverse effect on the environment.
It IS possible to build and run Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOS)
that are no more offensive or environmentally damaging than the feedlot
operations used by farmers for generations.  Extensive research in North
Carolina universities and through a consortium of universities of which
Michigan State University is a member is testing out not only the
effectiveness but the expense associated with building facilities that will
meet environmental laws and not stink. The real question is whether large
scale operations will be required to, or at least expected to use those
technologies. 

One of the tragedies of this situation is that in a number of cases farms have
been converted to large scale CAFO's without proper technological guidance,
and after investing huge amounts of money have built facilities that simply
are incapable of dealing with the animal waste produced.  A million dollar
investment that fails to do the job helps no one -- assuring that the
facilities are constructed and run in an environmentally sound fashion is only
good sense, and is what being a good neighbor and member of the community is
about.

And, lastly, there are economists who dispute, with a significant amount of
reason, that larger is inherently better financially.  For an excellent
example of that I can provide those who request it a copy of a letter written
by John Ikerd, an extension professor in Agricultural Economics at the
University of Missouri.  Perhaps the biggest question that should be asked,
however, is whether the goal of the family farm is to stay in farming, or to
produce a lot of pigs.  With the recent plummet in the price of hogs, the take
home message should have been that diversification of agricultural pursuits is
probably the best way to keep yourself in business.  

The increased centralization of the livestock industry is doing tremendous
damage to many in the industry.  In North Carolina, where because of breeched
lagoons and pfisteria contamination a great deal of attention has been paid to
this issue, there are now complaints about the anti-competitive practices of
slaughterhouses which have actually reduced their capacity during the drop in
prices, creating more chaos for independent livestock raisers.  It has also
been reported that the loss of the small to medium size grower has created
much worse swings in the industry -- someone who raised 100 hogs as part of an
overall farming operation can decide to hold off on taking his hogs to market
if the price drops.  Someone who raises 2500 feeder pigs at a time and has to
get them out the door at a certain age or gets into serious trouble both in
added expense for feed and trying to accomodate the new ones coming in may
have to take his hogs to market even if it is financially disastrous.

I would hope that medium sized farm operations are not being told they have no
choice but to move to CAFOs -- it ain't no good for nobody, as far as I can
see, to put all our pork in one basket.  I hear that there are Michigan
Department of Agriculture staff working on diversification of agriculture, but
it seems like this is the time to make sure those medium sized and small sized
operations are kept afloat, instead of driving them to make huge investments
in facilities that tie them to a market that is vulnerable to potentially
catastrophic swings which could put them out of business.

Anne Woiwode

anne,
i can see the validity of your distinction based on the two ends of a
continuum, but i wonder about cases that might fall in the middle of the
continuum . . . assume a traditional family-sized hog farm that is not
making much money . . . assume that almost all the sources of information
available to the farm operator(s) are saying that to become profitable, the
farm has to get larger and more intensive . . . in this sense, some would
argue that the model hog farm of the 1950's is not the model hog farm of the
1990's  . . . is that updated hog farm a pre-existing nuisance, or is it a
new facility
cheers,
craig



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