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Freedom To Farm? (continued)

By Darvin Bentlage

The pro CAFO leaders say this is progress and the future of agriculture. Most refer to this as "Agribusiness" and only say "agriculture" when it benefits them. It seems they want to take the culture of rural life out of the equation and add business. I always considered the implement, feed or fertilizer dealers as agribusiness and production of crops or meat as agriculture by farmers. The cultures they take out are the very values that cause people to want to move to a small farm in the country. The respect and caring about your neighbor or the land no longer exist. Your neighbor does not care if they pollute your pond or creek that runs through your property. According to their point of view, the smell that drives everyone inside when having a family picnic is your problem. That's the way country smells. If you don't like it, move to the city. It is cost prohibitive to protect the environment for the neighbors or Mother Nature. The farmers who have become contract growers are no more than custodians for the corporate animal factories. They make no decisions on how the operation is run or the care for the animals, because the animals are owned by the corporation. They cannot refer to themselves as the independent family farmers that have been the backbone of rural communities for generations.

We in rural communities cannot protect ourselves from these types of operations through zoning, because of political and judicial decisions. The Premium Standard Farms ruling set precedents against zoning farm structures. In Southwest Missouri, Richland Township zoned the density of the animals and had Judge Gum rule they were zoning farm structures. Richland Township is a rural community that voted 81% for the zoning with a turnout of 65%. In the recent Presidential election, Richland had a 16% turnout. People had the feeling our vote did not count.

Our Attorney General fights to overturn Judge Joyce's ruling of a two-mile setback from historic sites and parks on Arrow Rock's fight against a hog CAFO with the backing of Agribusiness and the Insurance company Farm Bureau. He does so with no client and no backing from the Governor or the former client Missouri Department of Natural Resources, but spends the taxpayer money to do so. Seems strange how governmental departments fight for Agribusiness, but no politician or governmental department came to the defense of a democratic vote and the people of a rural community's fight for the right of self-determination. It makes you wonder if this is still a government "By the People, For the People" and "The Pursuit of Happiness" or has corporate political power changed it to "By the Corporation, For the Corporation" and "The Pursuit of Money no matter what the cost."

And what is the cost to the taxpayer? In 2008 the Government bought $42 million in surplus poultry and $62 million of pork in 2008 and $55 million in 2009 for their overproduction. The USDA just announced it will buy another $50 million in pork this year. The Pork Industry has asked for even more. Farm Service Agency has provided direct and guaranteed loans for new hog and poultry construction to the tune of $264 million in the last two years. We should all get involved in making it heard that we must stop funding the building of these factories through governmental environmental programs or granting loan programs that benefit the Corporate Animal Factories at the cost of the environment and the living conditions of real family farmers.

(Darvin Bentlage farms 1160 acres of Barton County in Southwest Missouri. Bentlage serves as President of the Four States Angus Association. He sits on the Missouri State Technical Committee and the EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentive Program) Sub-Committee for Missouri. He works with Missouri Coalition for the Environment and Missouri Rural Crisis Center.)