Pipestone Holdings, the same folks who think it’s harassment to say that their pig poop near Mount Vernon stinks, wants to build a 9,000-hog concentrated animal feeding operation near Buffalo, North Dakota, about 40 miles west of Fargo. Pipestone Holdings likes that spot because North Dakota apparently thinks like G. Mark Mickelson:
Backers of the planned Rolling Green Family Farms swine operation in rural Cass County cited North Dakota’s “favorable permitting process controlled at the state level” in pitching their project last year at a state livestock summit.
Records obtained through open records requests show that officials from the state Department of Agriculture worked behind the scenes to help Rolling Green Family Farms secure an environmental permit for the 9,000-hog farm for almost a year before the public was notified of the proposal.
State agriculture officials were made aware that Pipestone Holdings was meeting with landowners near Buffalo in January 2015, months ahead of the Dec. 26, 2015, public notice for the hog farm sent out by state health officials [Patrick Springer, “Opponents Claim Buffalo Hog Farm ‘Not Done in Daylight,’ as State Ag Officials Knew Year in Advance,” Ag Week, 2016.03.17].
See the trick? Weaken local control, move more permitting from the county seat to the state capital, and the CAFO developers alert fewer local people as to what’s coming, meaning less time for local opponents to organize. Clever.
Also clever: Pipestone Holdings would name its Buffalo facility “Rolling Green Family Farm,” just as they call their Mount Vernon facility “Jackrabbit Family Farm,” since no one will begrudge a nice little “family farm” from producing the smell of money.
But some experts ask, what money?
One of the skeptics is Randy Coon, an agribusiness researcher at North Dakota State University who has spoken as a private citizen against the project, which would be located about 2 miles from his family’s farm.
Coon, noting that there are three unit-train loading facilities nearby, said many of the inputs for the hog farm likely would come from outside the region. He said local purchases of corn wouldn’t boost the economy, arguing they wouldn’t bring new money into the community.
He also said profits would go to absentee owners. On the other hand, “The additional truck traffic on township roads will require upgrades and maintenance at a time when their budgets are already stressed,” Coons wrote in comments to the state Department of Health, which will decide whether to grant a permit for the hog farm. “This facility would most likely result in tax increases for local residents” [Patrick Springer, “The Smell of Whose Money? Study Questions Impact of Factory Farms,” Grand Forks Herald, 2016.03.19].
First, where industrialized farming expands we can expect distinct effects on communities’ socioeconomic, social fabric, and environmental well-being. Communi- ties that receive industrialized farming are likely to increase population relative to other communities (that is, if local family farmers are not displaced). They are also likely to experience greater income inequality; govern- ment services for the poor and other disadvantaged groups are likely to be needed. These communities will encounter stresses in the social fabric, particularly increased community conflict. In the case of large live- stock confinement operations, communities will be at risk for environmental and health problems, entailing the need for government intervention. Finally, communities that lose moderate-size family farms, in part because of transaction cost advantages (e.g., volume buying-selling) and public incentives given to industrialized farms, will lose a base of middle-class producers and experience population decline and rifts in social fabric. These communities are likely to have declines in other local businesses and the property tax base and may require state aid for social and public services [Linda Lobao and Curtis W. Stofferahn, “The Community Effects of Industrialized Farming: Social Science Research and Challenges to Corporate Farming Laws,” Agriculture and Human Values, accepted 2007.07.19].
Hog CAFOs are also associated with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus—MRSA:
A team from the University of Iowa, Iowa City Veterans Affairs, and Kent State University have done just that. In next month’s Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, they survey 1,036 VA patients who lived in rural Iowa and were admitted to the Iowa City facility in 2010 and 2011. Overall, among those patients, 6.8 percent were carrying MRSA, drug-resistant staph, in their nostrils. But the patients’ likelihood of carrying MRSA was 2.76 times higher if they lived within one mile of a farm housing 2,500 or more pigs.
…This is not the first time that MRSA has been found in people who work on farms or live in the vicinity of them. Last year, a study found “pig MRSA” in workers from North Carolina hog farms, and another identified it in workers in Iowa and Illinois. Meanwhile, a third study published just in November found MRSA among people who lived in the vicinity of fields where swine manure was being applied. And last year, a group in Germany identified MRSA in people who lived near hog farms but did not have contact with animals [Maryn McKenna, “Almost Three Times the Risk of Carrying MRSA from Living near a Mega-Farm,” Wired, 2014.01.22].
Johns Hopkins researchers have also found an association between MRSA and crop fields fertilized with swine manure.
Buffalo, ND, residents are right to doubt whether they’ll be rolling in the green with the hog factory Pipestone Holdings wants to bring to town. They may be more likely to be rolling in a hospital bed.