Matt: I grew up on a small farm milking cows. I lived away from Iowa for 15 years. I moved back to Iowa to farm my parents farm (cow/calf operation by then). I did that for 13 years. Now I drive a truck and still do a lot of maintenance work on the farm. The farm is still in the family and is currently rented to a cow/calf operator. I’m 60 now and hoping to reach the promised land of medicare in 5 years! Our county was one of the few counties in Iowa to successfully pass a moratorium of the new construction of CAFOs in 2002. This victory was short lived as a Farm Bureau funded lawsuit quickly overturned local control. The court decided that an individual’s right to farm superseded a county health board’s right to protect its citizens. Around 2006, as my memory now serves, a neighbor put a 2400 pig CAFO approximately 1/3 of a mile southeast of me. A slight southeast breeze is all it takes to waft the stink to me. Unfortunately, August and September are months when the wind will often blow from that direction. It is interesting to note, that of the 11 closet neighbors at the time of construction only one neighbor was for it. Of the remaining 10 neighbors against it; 5 were full-time farmers, 2 were part-time farmers and the other 3 worked off the farm. Hog Confinementville was written around this time. Primarily, as an exercise in anger management. The last thing to note is that I take pride in being from Corning, Iowa because it was the home of the National Farmers Organization from 1955 thru 1989. It was the leading proponent of parity pricing of raw materials at market point entry during that time. Parity pricing is an fundamental economic principal. Since we are material beings living in a material world who are sustained by material consumption, clothed by material products, sheltered by material structures and largely entertained with the assistance of material inventions, then basing an economy with proper material pricing is essential for justice. Or as Charles Walters Jr. described it, “It is the flywheel of the economy”. So, for me, parity pricing at market point entry will out last the current corrupted economics and will be the underlying foundation of a future economy where justice is the leading motivation of civilization. Charles Walters Jr.’s books “Unforgiven” and “Raw Material Economics” give wonderful history and explanation to the parity concept.
Margot: I am from Illinois and grew up watching the opportunities for rural America dry up and disappear. While there were once processors for fresh vegetables—Del Monte, Campbell Soup, Carnation Milk—within an easy drive when I was a child and teenager, they were already beginning to close when I got out of college and moved to my father’s 600-acre farm near Dixon. Farmers had raised sweet corn, asparagus, peas, green beans, tomatoes and other crops for those processors, and our milk went to Carnation, but pressure from cheaper suppliers forced farmers to move to corn, soybeans, beef cattle, like all the farmers in all the nation. Fast forward a bunch of years: My husband and I had just moved to our Missouri farm in 199X when a group of entrepreneurs came along wanting to build a racetrack. The City Chamber of Commerce thought this was a swell idea and jumped into promotions with both feet even though the neighborhood was firmly against it. The entrepreneurs turned out to be phonies, so the ribbon-cutting never took place but it was a good lesson in how desperate rural communities are for businesses that might keep a few of the youngsters around. Next, a neighbor announced that he was building a hog finishing facility, under contract for Cargill. Again, the community reacted quickly—but the hog-house janitor, thinking he was in charge of his operation, had already finished some of the work on his buildings; he continued with 5,600 hogs. When it opened, Cargill had failed to prepare him for the huge death count. So, he was dragging hog carcasses to the far end of his property—which was also right over the fence of a couple raising two daughters. The smell was unbelievable. We reported him to the State Veterinarian and heard his bulldozer running late into the night. The hogs are buried now, under what we call “Hog Mountain.” Another big smell came from the lagoon, which is a fancy name for an open-air cesspool. Again, the community met and finally decided to bring a suit against this hog-house janitor. We had a good experience when he agreed to put in a two-stage “lagoon” with an aerator. I was surprised at how much difference such a simple fix brought to us. We even dared to have a big party for my daughter’s wedding and the party came off without a hitch. Why wasn’t such an innovation required for all CAFOs? But, then, in 2014, a letter went out to many of the neighbors from the state DNR, announcing that the hog-house janitor had decided to build again. This CAFO would have 10,000 sows (mother hogs) and all their babies. We fought it back for four years but each time we won a stay, the Farm Bureau and commodity groups would send their lobbyists to the state legislature and, with the help of certain lawmakers, make our action illegal so the next communities couldn’t use the same arguments to win. In 2018, we lost our last battle and the sow operation, protected by the owner’s spiderweb of LLCs, is now in operation. Cafozone is just one of the strategies we have to bring publicity to the problem. I look forward to the fun of meeting creative folks to help us take the next steps!