Despite an official letter of opposition from the Marshall County Board and widespread opposition from local residents, an Iowa firm has received tentative approval from the Illinois Department of Agriculture for Sandy Lane LLC Hog Farm, a massive, 20,000-head hog confinement operation in rural Marshall County near Wenona. Opponents have pledged to continue to fight the proposed operation. Dale Goodner canoed Sandy Creek with his family years ago.
“Factory” and “farm” are two words which, like ‘friendly fire,’ really don’t belong together. The “factory farm” is problematic in so many ways. The industrial model applied to agriculture is unsustainable. It deteriorates soil (which can take a thousand years to grow an inch), it pollutes surface and ground water, and is cheap energy dependent. Domestic animals are reduced to mere meat machines. The crowded conditions make abuse of antibiotics a necessity, and appropriate waste disposal an impossibility.
If the mega hog farm is allowed to inundate the watershed of the Illinois River with its tsunami of sewage, Big Sandy Creek will become collateral damage. The air will carry the acrid metallic stench of vast amounts of untreated sewage which is spread over the landscape. But more insidious are the super bugs, antibiotic resistant bacteria, such as MRSA, or numerous strains of E. coli. About 80 percent of the antibiotics produced in this country are used on livestock, particularly those in concentrated feeding operations, giving rise to these “super bugs.”
Once a factory farm moves in, it dominates daily life. There’s no escaping its relentless influence. The breezes don’t just stink . . . they are a very real and palpable growing threat to public health. The concept of “digester” will be touted as treatment for oceans of manure . . . which is referred to as “nutrient.” In reality they merely produce some methane.
Local county roads and highways will become crowded and impacted by trucks, tractors, and tankers loaded with feed or effluents . . . a mixture of manure, cleaning compounds, hormones, and industrial waste. Calling it nutrient management doesn’t lessen its impact on environmental and public health.
Rain and snow have a way of finding their way into surface and ground water. Normally this is a good thing. Life-giving water nourishes the entire ecosystem. But not when it is a vehicle for effluents from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. It now delivers diverse pollutants and bacteria into streams, rivers, and ground water (which taints wells).
It will be alleged that factory farms are necessary to feed the world’s expanding population. But 80 percent of the world population is fed by women operating subsistence farms. Unsustainable practices touted by Monsanto and Syngenta merely enrich the few, while damaging biotic diversity as well as soil and water. Organic farming is more efficient, sustainable, and embodies the future of Ag.
Factory farms eliminate jobs. According to Farm Aid, between 1987 and 2007 the median hog farm size increased by 2,000 percent. In this same period, the number of farmers raising hogs fell by 69 percent. Hundreds of millions of dollars of farm subsidies are syphoned away from actual farmers to enrich corporate share holders. If we were wise instead of just clever, this subsidy would be used to encourage sustainable organic family farming.
When a factory farm moves in it negatively impacts everything. As in fracking, the resulting decline in environmental quality spreads to everything from public health to property value decline to reduced tourism.
Speaking of fracking . . . New York’s Governor took an important step in protecting the environment. For more information, Google: Cuomo fracking decision. That will bring up a New York Times article.
Dale Goodner lived and worked in Peoria for more than 30 years. He was supervisor of environmental and interpretive services at the Peoria Park District. He now lives and volunteers in Wisconsin and speaks out against the environmental impact of industrial farming.