Editorial: When corporate pig farms dominate the political agenda, residents suffer

Editorial: When corporate pig farms dominate the political agenda, residents suffer

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It’s never too late to rethink bad decisions and reverse course before it’s too late. Gov. Mike Parson and like-minded state legislators should take a close look at the experience of residents in places like Estherville, Iowa, before continuing to open the floodgates for giant corporate pig farms to overrun the state.

In May, Parson signed a bill to revoke local governments’ ability to impose restrictions on corporate pig farms more stringent than state standards. That cleared the way for mega-pig farms to enter the state, even if they put smaller local farmers out of business. But more to the point, the law revokes local governments’ powers to say: No, we do not want your smelly, polluting operation anywhere close to where our residents live, work, play and breathe.

Iowa residents are feeling the consequences of similar moves in their state. Property values anywhere close to these pig farms are plummeting. Environmental and health problems are escalating. The inescapable stink from growing mountains of pig manure are enough to make people pack up and leave.

The last federal count of factory farms was conducted in 2018 by the Environmental Protection Agency. It was incomplete, however, because industrial farming groups sued to stop the count, claiming invasion of privacy and a threat of eco-terrorism, The Associated Press reported. That count nevertheless yielded a count of 20,300 factory farms, indicating a fivefold increase since the late 1970s. The operators obviously aren’t keen on government agencies knowing where they are and what they’re up to. Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources had to resort to a search using aerial photos in 2017, which led to the discovery of 4,200 previously unknown facilities.

For all of Republicans’ clamor about deregulation and relaxation of environmental oversight, the consequences are enormous when industrial pig farms escape stringent monitoring. Local governments are the ones best suited to hold them accountable because their officials are first to smell the waste and see the buildup of phosphorous, ammonia and other effluent in waterways when farms don’t comply with manure-disposal requirements.

In Iowa and Minnesota, factory farms have a way of concentrating and multiplying once a single farm takes root. Crop farmer Brad Trom in Dodge County, Minnesota, watched in horror as the count went from one to 11 structures housing 30,000 pigs within three miles of his property. “You don’t want to be anywhere near them,” he told The Associated Press.

Jeff Schwartzkopf saw similar concentrations within 2½ miles of their house. He and his wife have developed body rashes and respiratory illnesses, and their property is now worthless.

It’s only a matter of time before similar complaints arise in Missouri. When voting time comes in November, Missourians should keep in mind a governor and GOP lawmakers who allowed corporate interests to prevail over those of local residents.

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