Opponents and proponents of stricter feedlot regulations in Bon Homme County are forming a volunteer group to see if they can help the county commission strike the right balance between ag-industrial interests and health and environmental concerns.
Meanwhile, Rep. G. Mark Mickelson (R-13/Sioux Falls), who has spent the last two Legislative Sessions dismantling feedlot regulations, says we’re still putting too many rules in the way of farmers who want to build concentrated animal feeding operations. Rep. Mickelson recites for WNAX his conviction that CAFOs are the only way to keep young people in farming in South Dakota and that we must thus review these environmentally risky operations as expeditiously as we can.
Rep. Mickelson continues to ignore the fact that CAFOs are not the only route to rural economic development. One could argue that favoring CAFOs actually makes it harder for other development to take place. Big feedlots expropriate land use from neighbors: concentrate 1,000 or 5,000 hogs in one feedlot, and while the feedlot owner increases his profits, the surrounding land becomes less desirable for housing development, other commercial development, and organic farming activities. Use the same land to promote small-scale agricultural production for local markets, and several entrepreneurs have a chance to make a better living on the land without infringing on their neighbors’ land use to the same extent that big CAFOs do.
Expand your field of vision, Rep. Mickelson. Existing CAFO regulations aren’t stopping farmers from building CAFOs, as a quick olfactory tour of East River will make clear. Expanding CAFOs may crowd out more of the young producers you say you want to keep in South Dakota.