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Iowa Farmer Comments on the CAFO Debate

Mar 19, 2012

Dear John:

   Thank you for the Iditarod Story today. It was really enjoyable.  I would also like to thank you for your comments re: CAFO's.  I am a 4th-generation family farmer who (10 yrs. ago) fought & won the battle to keep a man from building his 7,000-sow confinement abt. 1895-feet from our farm home. But that was one battle, and they continue to be built ad nauseum in this state.
   In Iowa, the lobbyists from Farm Bureau & the Coalition to Support Iowa Farmers, keep any kind of meaningful regulation of CAFO's from passing through our legislature.  And now they, and Gov. Branstad, have pushed through this ridiculous legislation to keep cameras out of their confinements.  I am like you:  What exactly is going on in the CAFO's that a law has to be passed in order to keep the public completely ignorant?
   In Iowa, the Dept. of Natural Resources is supposed to enforce the regulations that govern CAFO's. That dept. has now been defunded to the point that it is almost irrelevant. Next week I will attend a hearing in which the DNR will set forth their plan to not fine a producer or enforce the regulations but, rather, sit down & talk to him about what he might like to do differently. We are a state with hundreds of fresh water sources. But the confinement industry has been allowed to foul them to the point that we have 542+ impaired waterways in this state.
   Don't get me wrong: I grew up with livestock and my husband & I raised hogs, cattle & sheep for many years.Our children showed livestock in 4-H.  But I am not a fan of the CAFO industry and the stranglehold it has on our state. 
   Thank you for your comments. And thank you for a good show every week. I don't miss it very often.
Barbara Kalbach
Dexter, IA
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COMMENTS (3 Comments)

Cindy - Hutchinson, MN
Barbara does not advocate for the elimination of CAFOs. Rather, she advocates for the enforcement of the regulations already on the books and limiting negative impact by sensible limitations on size of any single operation. Neither of these suggestions threaten properly run operations. Rather, opposition to outside scrutiny and enforcement of the law raises mistrust. Please refer to the continuing fallout from the LFTB/pink slime affair for a preview of what awaits pork producers if they continue to follow the path they appear to have chosen. Beef continues loosing market share, in no small part due to the perception among the consuming public that beef producers have chosen a path of deception and dishonesty. If your customers no longer trust you to deliver the good(s) you have advertised you produce, they will leave you whether the perception is true or not. People still buy meat, they just don't rate beef as highly any more. Why risk alienating your customers - rather than seek legislation that keeps third parties out welcome them in and show you have nothing to hide. Size limits are often the better economic choice. Failure to appreciate that lead to "too big to fail" companies - and wasn't that an economic boon to the country. Are the situations identical? No, certainly not. But they share certain characteristics that can be instructive. It stings to have your work questioned, but by showing a willingness to be open to criticism and to adapt current practices is the path to greater success in virtually all aspects of life. This approach is the usual hallmark of the successful profitable long-term business and businessperson.
11:50 PM Apr 22nd
Well Barbara, I would really like to know how Iowa can be expected to market over 20 million hogs per year without confinement buildings. Open feedlots? Also I use over 4.5 million gallons of hog manure on my corn fields every year. Do you want me to go back using commercial fertilizer? It is one thing just to complain. But if you are going to complain, you should have solutions to your problems already thought out. Raising 20 million pigs in Iowa without confinement buildings would be an enviromental nightmare. Confinement buildings allow collection of manure, which then allows it to be used for nitrogen on Iowa corn fields.
12:50 PM Mar 19th
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