[Date Prev][Date Next][Date Index]
E-M:/ CAFOs and "cheap food"
- Subject: E-M:/ CAFOs and "cheap food"
- From: Kathy Melmoth <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Tue, 22 Jul 2003 10:14:08 -0400
- Delivered-To: email@example.com
- Delivered-To: firstname.lastname@example.org
- List-Name: Enviro-Mich
- Reply-To: Kathy Melmoth <email@example.com>
- User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Win 9x 4.90; en-US; rv:1.0.2) Gecko/20021120 Netscape/7.01
The article in the Free Press by Chris Christoff, did a great job calling
attention to the CAFO issue. However, one of the most disturbing aspects of
the discussion on CAFOs is that it is framed in terms of cheap food vs. environmentally
sound and healthy food. It is very discouraging to see our land grant university
(MSU) frame the issue this way. "We can't go back to the bucolic, small family
farm - that's not what is associated with modern agriculture," said Bill
Bickert,.."But we want inexpensive food. I don't think the consumer makes
a connection between pristine air, clean water and the cost of their food."
While Bickert (from MSU), makes the connection between production methods
and clean water and air, he blames the consumer's desire for cheap food for
the polluting production system rather than where the blame should be, on
the industry. And he ignores the fact that consumers have few alternatives
and several surveys show their desire for food produced in a healthy and environmentally
safe manner and they are willing to pay more for it.
There is also the myth of "cheap food". As those of us who live near CAFOs
know, there are enormous costs to this food. There are the widespread environmental
costs, the contamination of surface and ground water being the most obvious
and documented, but the air quality, (hydrogen sulfide, methane, ammonia emissions,
dust, airborne pathogens and other particulate) are major problems. There
are mental and physical health costs for neighbors and workers and the unknown
costs of the consumption of food produced with hormones and antibiotics and
the known cost of antibiotic resistance.
There is the cost of the loss of farms and farm communities. North Carolina
documented the loss of almost all small pig farms when hog CAFOs arrived,
displacing thousands of small, independent operations. In the Lenawee/Hillsdale
County area we have witnessed the closure of local, small, family dairies
due to low prices, a result of government policies that favor industrial livestock
production. There is competition for land. The CAFO owners can (and do) pay
more for land for liquid manure disposal than the smaller farmers who need
it for production, at least in the Lenawee/Hillsdale area.
The most obvious cost to taxpayers are the farm subsidies to agribusiness.
The CAFOs are multimillion dollar operations and are still eligible for many
taxpayer subsidies including milk price support and EQUIP money not to mention
the subsidized cheap corn and other field crops used for food for CAFO livestock.
We need to get the message out that this is not cheap food. For some
reason, few in the media or elsewhere challenge this assertion.
There are alternatives. Rotational grazing for cows, deep straw bedding
for pigs and other systems that are rarely talked about that are not part
of a "bucolic past" but part of profit making, healthy, production systems
today. We need to ask MSU why they are not promoting such systems and the
farms who use these systems. Why aren't they on the farm tours in Michigan?
And we need to educate people who dismiss these alternatives.
And as consumers of meat, milk and produce we have to make the tough choice
to pay more for our food. To vote with our dollar, to speak out for food produced
in a sustainable way or at least in a more responsible way. To buy locally