Feedlot fanatic Speaker G. Mark Mickelson (R-13/Sioux Falls) continues to press his one-track vision of rural economic development by threatening to take away state aid to county governments if they don’t loosen their CAFO regulations:
If you come out to Pierre and you got your pockets turned inside out, but your population’s in decline and you continue to ship more and more grain out of your county, then there’s not a lot we can do for you if you’re not going to let your neighbor get into the business of feeding hogs, feeding dairy cattle, feeding beef cattle [Speaker G. Mark Mickelson, audio transcribed from “House Speaker Would Like Counties to Come up with Development Plans,” Hub City Radio, 2017.12.11].
Gee, Speaker Mickelson, suppose a county takes a look at scientific evidence about the health harms (asthma, flu viruses, antibiotic resistance) and economic harms (loss of jobs, depressed property values, strained county resources) of large concentrated animal feeding operations and decides it would rather invest in attracting renewable energy companies, homebuilders, engineering firms, manufacturers, welding shops, and computer/network companies to employ all those vo-tech graduates on whom you’re asking the state to spend more and more money. Do you really want to blackmail them into following your narrow vision of rural economic development? Do you really want to dictate from Pierre that every county less urbane than your Sioux Falls home should tie its economy to the agriculture seesaw and bury itself in cow poop?
And counties, do you really want a Sioux Falls lawyer telling you that all you can do is raise hogs?
Don’t let narrow-minded Mickelson blackmail you, rural South Dakota. Small towns can pursue economic revitalization through arts, tourism, and downtown business development. Rural communities can diversify into craft brewing, small-scale organic ag, and wind farms while improving their water quality. Instead of plodding down Mickelson’s narrow factory-farm chute, rural South Dakota can follow multiple paths to economic recovery and sustainable development.