HERD ABOUT IT?
In the past 35 years my end of the county has seen the development of around ten mega farms known as CAFO’s (confined animal feeding operations) or factory farms. When a factory moves into an area it usually promises something to the community, usually jobs or other economic bonuses.
“The promoters of CAFOs tend to target communities that are desperate for economic development, although they may later branch out into surrounding areas. Local leaders are told that the CAFO will add to local employment and the local tax base. The effects of increased local spending for buildings, equipment, feed, and feeder livestock are supposed to multiply as they ripple through the community, resulting in additional expenditures for groceries, clothes, housing, automobiles, healthcare, and other consumer necessities. Increased property tax collections will then pay for better local schools, roads, and other public services.” From Impacts of CAFOs on Rural Communities(2008), John Ikerd Professor Emeritus, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO
Since 1975 the area has lost at least 2 Red & White grocery stores, 2 equipment dealerships, at least 2 feedmill/hardware stores, another small convenience store, a dry goods store, a full service gas station/garage, laundromat, too many small family farms to count, and a number of larger family farms. The long time restaurant has changed hands more often than a teenager changes their clothes.
Jobs seem to have gone the way of the family farms. Of course there was the loss of jobs at the stores, feed mills and restaurants. There were also jobs lost from the loss of so many small family farms. Part time or summer time jobs for teenagers and full time jobs for herdsmen and field hands.
What about jobs in the new factory farms? It would seem that they should need quite a bit of help, and I am sure that many of their employees are local people. So many of the people I know travel long distances to get to their jobs in neighboring cities. It seems that a great many of the jobs at these factory farms are being done by laborers from outside our area.
Now I know we are told that the immigrant laborers are here because Americans won’t do the jobs they do. Since a very short time ago we were doing those jobs – does that excuse make sense? It’s not like the jobs we have to travel 30 miles each way to are paying wonderful salaries.
Perhaps it’s because when we were doing those jobs, we were working for ourselves, and we prefer to be more independent. Maybe it’s because the jobs went from working intimately with a herd of cattle that we knew, to working with cattle as cogs in a machine. Maybe it’s because the jobs that used to require varied skills have now become full days putting milkers on or off, driving manure spreaders etc. I can’t imagine feeding calves -all-day-long.
Traffic on our rural roads has increased dramaticly with large equipment and trucks running back and forth from the factory – uh farm -to the far flung fields leased for spreading manure and growing crops. Where it used to be your neighbor going by, watching out for children and dogs and stopping to chat about the weather and crop yeilds, now it’s someone you don’t know zooming by in a hurry with out a care for the neighborhood. These larger vehicles traveling longer distances take a toll on our roads and bridges.
I know what we’ve lost – what have we gained?