OH NO – ANOTHER CA-FO

Another Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) is a comin’ to Allen County. This one will be number 6 and will be located at 12102 Rohrbach Road. The operation will house 4,000 hogs. A hog produces about 14 pounds of manure a day, which equals a whopping 56,000 pounds of manure a day for a 4,000 head operation. In tonnage that equals 28 tons.

All that waste is held in pits under the slatted floors of the confinement building and eventually placed in “manure” lagoons. The proprietor hauls the juicy concoction out to the fields for spreading or injection, often times in a vehicle euphemistically called a “honey wagon.”

CAFOs have become the darling of the meat production industry with mass production becoming increasingly popular, especially in the hog industry. In the past 15 years, the number of U.S. hog farms has dropped from 600,000 to 157,000. However, the total hog inventory has remained almost the same. In the past 10 years, the U.S. has lost 84,220 farms with the vast majority of this farm loss in the form of small farms.

CAFOs are linked to a number of health and aesthetic issues.

  • WATER: CAFO operators apply animal waste to area fields either through injection or spreading, often resulting in the soil becoming saturated with pollutants such as pathogens, phosphorus, nitrate and ammonia. Rainfall causes these chemicals to leach out of the soil and to seep into the underground water table, contaminating surrounding drinking-water sources.
  • HEALTH: CAFO air emissions constitute a hazard to public health and worker health with increased rates of nausea, headaches, vomiting or diarrhea and even brain damage and life-threatening pulmonary edema. The American Public Health Association has called for a moratorium on new CAFOs pending additional research on these documented risks.
  • AIR (ODOR): People living near CAFOs have long complained about odor emanating from these facilities. Poor air quality in the vicinity of CAFOs has been linked to health concerns like upper respiratory diseases.
  • PROPERTY RESALE VALUE: Property resale value may be affected by a nearby CAFO since air quality and quality of life

Image credit: Google Earth

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The Indiana Department of Environmental Management is taking comments regarding the newest factory farm. But don’t look for IDEM to listen to the public or to deny the permit. IDEM has fallen in step with Governor Daniels’ desire to double hog production in the next few years.

IDEM claims its only role is to review the application and the manure handling plan, and, if in order, the application is rubber-stamped and the permit sent on its way to the new CAFO owner. So, like it or not, Allen County will more than likely be home to a sixth CAFO with more to come. You can count your little piggies on that.

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About Charlotte A. Weybright

I own a home in the historical West Central Neighborhood of Fort Wayne, Indiana. I have four grown sons and nine grandchildren - four grandsons and five granddaughters. I love to work on my home, and I enjoy crafts of all types. But, most of all, I enjoy being involved in political and community issues.
This entry was posted in Air Pollution, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, Confined Animal Feeding Operations, Cruelty to Animals, Environment, Industrial farms, Water Pollution and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to OH NO – ANOTHER CA-FO

  1. Phil Marx says:

    Charlotte, I appreciate your blog. I think you express a lot of genuine and legitimate concern for the environment as well as other issues. I also agree with many of your readers who think that you explore the issues and do well at considering alternative viewpoints. I just wanted to state that up fron because now I plan to critique you.

    A lot of your posts can be generalized under the “Bigger is badder” category. I understand why your personal preferences might make you choose neighborhood grocery over Wal-Mart Inc, but I don’t think you have presented a compelling argument for why this is necessarily bad for society as a whole.

    Yes, Wal-Mart pushes out a lot of small stores, but this is driven by consumer choice. Wages there might be lower, but so are the prices. When you sum this up, I’m not convinced that anyone has made a credible argument for proving that either choice is substantiall better.

    I believe you have mentioned other “problems” associated with big box stores, such as lack of health insurance for employees and their purchasing of foreign made goods to stock their shelves. I think it is inaccurate to see this as anything other than a phenomenon that spans American businesses of all sizes and types. To use one select example of a small business that treats their employees fair and tries to sell American made goods can not mask the fact that this is not the norm even for small businesses today.

    Now, relating to your current post, I would like to know how these mega-farms are to be considered bad for the environment. Listing the huge amounts of manure associated with them, I think, is nothing more than a scare tactic that overamplifies the problem. If this same number of hogs was being raised on many small farms instead of one huge farm, would they not be producing the same total amount of manure?

    Basically, I am simply asking you to explain to me how one big pile of s**t is really any worse than a bunch of small piles. 🙂

  2. Phil Marx says:

    p.s.

    I love the way your blog turned my colon and parenthesis into an actual smiley face.
    🙂

  3. Phil:

    First, thank you for the prefatory positive comments. I do, for the most part, go with the theory that “bigger is badder.” And, yes, my opinion is a reflection of having been involved in a small family business for 30 years.

    Driving out small businesses many times is a result of suppliers giving a price break to larger businesses. We ran into this constantly and could not match the low prices of the bigger stores – in those days it was Scott’s, Maloley’s, Krogers, etc. We didn’t have big-box stores in our area such as Wal-Mart back then.

    We had to make a certain profit margin, which in the grocery business isn’t great anyway. Since out cost was higher, our prices had to be higher. The big-box stores drive out smaller businesses because of their buying power which then attracts consumers. In today’s world, the price breaks are also created by the large corporations having the ability to exploit other countries which have large labor pools, low operating costs, and little or not regulations, etc. How many small businesses can afford to set up shop in China and reap the benefits of cheap labor, no environmental regulations, and no worker protections? How many small businesses go global?

    Since shipping across oceans costs money, the corporations who split for other lands must be doing all right in the profit margin area, or they wouldn’t assume the cost of shipping goods to the U.S. from thousands of miles away.

    As to the CAFO manure issue, according to the USDA, the inventory of market hogs weighing 120-179 pounds was up 9.5% on June 1 and the inventory of market hogs weighing 60-119 pounds was up 5.8%.

    http://agebb.missouri.edu/mgt/bull1b.htm

    That is a 10% increase in inventory for a certain portion of the swine inventory. That means a 10% increase in the number of hogs that produce waste. In addition to that increase, in the past hogs were raised on smaller farms with manure hauled to the fields for spreading over a wide area. The smaller amounts could be absorbed with less danger of ground water or surface water contamination.

    With today’s CAFOs, the massive amounts of manure produced must be disposed of somewhere. The larger amounts from thousands of hogs crammed into an area will create a larger concentration of accumulating manure produced by the CAFO. It isn’t practical or cost effective to drive hundreds of miles to haul a load of crap.

    The whole idea behind a CAFO is to increase production which will eventually increase the inventory. Daniels wants to double hog production in Indiana in the next few years. Doubling hog production will, obviously, double the amount of manure. No way around it.

    CAFOs have been around for quite some time, but when was the first time you heard about them? I didn’t know much about them until about two years ago when so many of them started popping up, in particular in east central Indiana.

    The CDC and other health websites set out the side effects of CAFOs. If these scientists and health professionals have studied these effects and found them hazardous to our health, why are some so unwilling to accept the results of the studies?

  4. kent strock says:

    Phil,
    The science is clear…a huge concentration of manure in one place can’t be “processed” by nature like a number of farms spread out in a wide area. The manure of thousands of animals is spread on an area usually within a mile radius. The land can’t handle that volume and it leeches and affects land, water and air quality.

  5. kent strock says:

    Given that Indiana finishes in the bottom two states in environmental quality and regulations a doubling of hog CAFO production will turn Indiana into a cesspool. As anyone knows who has experience with CAFOs the “environmental management” regulatory people don’t enforce any of the laws that are on the books.

  6. Phil Marx says:

    Thanks both for the insightful answers, that’s what I was looking for. From an economic perspective, I am often in favor of bigger operations in theory, but also realize that in practice things don’t always pan out as well as thhey were expected to.

    One of the simplist economic proposals, specialization of labor, can be used as a great example. Adam Smith proved in his book that this is what made the British an Empire, and others will say that Henry Ford did the same for America. But specialization can be taken to an extreme.

    I worked in a meat packing plant for three months. Most of the employees there had incurred some type of repetitive stress injury. I would often wake up in the middle of the night with my entire arm being totally numb from this. It would come back after slamming it against the wall a few times, but was a quite disturbing phenomenon to experience.

    The company’s solution to this problem was that whenever somone would suffer from this while at work they would move them to a different part of the line, where they would then do a different repetitive motion.

    So, specialization is good, it let’s us make a lot of pins and turns our nation into an empire. But if taken to the extreme, it makes us lose feeling in and control over our limbs. All things in moderation – not sure who said that, but they must have been talking about this.

    If the increased profits of these organizations is from specialization or other such economies-of-scale then I am in support of them. As I said, an individual hog craps the same amount whether on a big farm or a small one. But if their increased profits come from failing to properly dispose of the waste, then this is not a true efficiency.

  7. kent strock says:

    Phil,
    Nutin personal but the “simplest economic” concepts such as “consumer choice”, “true efficiency”, “economies of scale” or lower taxes produces more revenue are just buzzwords and empty religious economic fairy tales.

    I have had experience with CAFOs and they didn’t just drop from heaven because of consumer choice or “non-efficiency”. They occur because very specific governmental, political and economic reasons. The reason for their existence is to hide the “extra” costs of the functioning of the “market”. The costs that aren’t included in the ideology of the mass media or the Republican Party.

    Your observations about working in a meatpacking company is interesting…guess how many illegal immigrants do this job for nothing and with no protections. If you are interested look at stories that Bill Moyers and NOW did on this problem and you will find other empirical facts that question the “concepts” you hold dear.

  8. kent strock says:

    Phil,
    Are you related to George, Craig, Diane and Brad Marks of Hamilton?

  9. Phil Marx says:

    Kent Strock;

    I understand what you are saying about the misuses of certain buzzwords, whether in economics or other areas. The point I was trying to make is this.

    The simplest defintion of economics is getting more for less. But to determine whether something truely is economical you must examine all the related details.

    Some factories work 12-hour shifts. The benefit to the employer is that there are less shift changes per day/week. The benefit to the employee is there is less overall drive time to work per week.

    But there are costs as well. Fatigue on the human body means that for longer shifts, the per hour uotput is usually a bit lower. This same factor is also more likely to cause employee accidents. Then there is the fact that these 12-hour shifts are frequently accompanied by some sort of rotating work schedule that causes a lot of disruptions to the employees lifestyle as well.

    True efficiency is not a buzzword, and it can be achieved. But all the cost must be counted against all the benefits in order to determine whether this is the case. In the case of CAFO’s, it appears as though they are trying to hide the cost of properly disposing of the manure.

  10. Phil Marx says:

    No, I am not related to any Marks that I know of, and I don’t have any relatives in Hamilton. But if they’re rich, I’m willing to lie and say yes.

  11. clint jenkins says:

    Kent, please stop mislead with that ilk. You say IDEM doesnt enforce any laws on the books- I being a truethful person beg to differ. Please see website

    http://www.kemplog.com/2008/03/25/degroot-out-of-indiana/

    Since Cafos and farming opperations have increase in size-the need for environmental impact oversite has skyrocketed. There are policies in place that monitor manure distrobution. Books must be kept and for the most part farmers want their children to be able to canoe down these rivers. One of the best regulators of manure are “Citiots” These are the people who move out in the country and then turn there neighbor in for every little manure or smell problem. I assume alot of liberals would fit into this colum. And Charlotte is right as one concentrates manure it must be managed more intensly however I can gaurentee that a 300 hog operation 20 years ago was more environmnetaly damaging than a 3000 hog operation today.
    And please try not to bring Moyers into any conversation of reason. Its like using Al Gore as a witness for Man Made Global Warming. You like to through around science (today it was 15 degrees below norm in souther ohio) Explain that

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