If you are driving down the interstate and suddenly come on a terrible smell, you are probably passing the site of a confined animal feeding operation (CAFO). There, thousands of animals are crowded together, being fed to get up to market weight. The manure these operations produce equals the sewage produced by a city.
These animals spread disease to each other and must have lots of antibiotics to keep them from dying. Of course, these antibiotics in our food supply help cause antibiotic-resistant bacteria. As a result, you may come down with something that can’t be cured with regular medicine.
Two hundred years ago, the factory system was coming in and individual artisans were being pushed out. Now the same thing is happening to individual farmers.
In Missouri, two CAFOs are being built right beside state parks: Roaring River and Arrow Rock. The director of the Department of Natural Resources tells protesters that he has no power to do anything about it.
This is the man who as a state senator talked to meetings in his district about how agriculture was being taken over by corporations and soon they would control all our food supply. Now that he has an advanced political position, he doesn’t think he can do anything about it.
A desperate farmer next to one of the CAFOs being built wrote to the newspaper that his farm uses 200 gallons of water a day, but the CAFO will use 80,000 gallons a day. There will be no water left for him.
A retired woman living on $600 a month from Social Security next to a CAFO found when she went to take a shower, brown manure came out of the showerhead. The CAFO manure was getting into her well.
The government had designed a lagoon for the manure and given the CAFO owner $280,000 to build it. Apparently it didn’t work, and the manure came into the well next door. The Department of Natural Resources offered to put a camera down her well and see if there was a crack. She would not allow this because if a crack were discovered, the well would be sealed. With no water to her house, she would be unable to get a loan to get a new well and the Department of Natural Resources had no money to help her.
Fortunately, the latest word is that the Missouri attorney general will take up her case.
Every year a bill is introduced into the Legislature to prevent counties from passing health regulations against CAFOs and declaring that when a CAFO is planned, neighboring property owners do not need to be notified to give them a chance to protest. So far, environmental, labor and small farmer organizations have been able to prevent the passage of these bills.
Pam Wright and her husband (wri @townsqr.com) are longtime beekeepers in Missouri.