University of Iowa environmental engineering researcher Chris Jones blogs about the tension between agriculture and a healthy environment. (“Farmers are stewards of the land” is on Jones’s Cropaganda Tropes Bingo card.) One of his more popular blog posts is a 2019 calculation of Iowa’s real population in terms of waste products—i.e., pee and poop—flowing from the state’s food critters. When Jones tallies the nitrogen, phosphorus, and total solids generated by Iowa hogs, dairy cattle, beef cattle, laying chickens, and turkeys, he figures critter ag generates 134 million people’s worth of sewage in Iowa:
In total, these five species generate the waste equivalent to that produced by about 134 million people, which would place Iowa as the 10th most populous country in the world, right below Russia and right above Mexico. (Caveat: obviously Russia and Mexico have their own livestock that I am not counting.) And in terms of population density in the context of N, P and TS waste, Iowa would come close to the country of Bangladesh [Chris Jones, “Iowa’s Real Population,” blog, 2019.03.14].
Let’s use Jones’s math to figure out South Dakota’s real poopulation:
|Iowa critter count||Iowa critter waste people equivalent||South Dakota critter count||SD critter waste people equivalent|
(avg. of est. 20M–24M)
(est. from 700M eggs per year,
avg. 300–325 eggs per hen)
Assuming South Dakota critters produce nitrogen, phosphorus, and total solids as prodigiously as their Iowa counterparts (and Dan Lederman certainly seems to produce as much bullcrap in Iowa as he does in South Dakota), our hogs, dairy and beef cattle, chickens, and turkeys would produce 68 million people’s worth of sewage.
68 million people—that’s a lot of poop! That’s the amount of sewage you’d get if you took the yearly excretion of every human being in America’s 20 largest cities—New York, L.A., Chicago, Houston, Phoenix, Philly, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, San Jose, Austin, Jacksonville, Fort Worth, Columbus, Indianapolis, Charlotte, San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, and D.C.‚—and doubled it.
In Iowa, the ratio of ag critter waste in people equivalents to actual people is 42 to 1—i.e., if we put every Iowan’s yearly poop in a discrete pile, we could surround that pile with 42 equally sized piles of critter poop. In South Dakota, the critter/people poop ratio is 77 to 1.
So, yeah: you could say South Dakota is a crappier state than Iowa.
You could also say that if you’re worried enough about properly disposing of human waste that you’ll spend $50 million of federal coronavirus relief dollars to build better sewers, you should be even more worried (like, $50M × 77 = $3.8 billion’s worth of worried) about controlling waste runoff from our CAFOs and poultry factories.