ByMadison McVan, Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
CAFOs have been a point of contention between the livestock industry and environmental activists since they began to proliferate in the 1990s, overtaking small, pasture-feeding operations as the dominant form of animal agriculture in the US. As the number of livestock producers has declined, the number of animals — hogs, cattle and poultry — has skyrocketed over the past several decades, in part due to rapid consolidation in the industry.
Byby Cynthia Voelkl/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
According to a well-presented American Farm Bureau analysis released in October, U.S. farm income in 2019 will reach $88 billion, or the highest net farm income since 2014’s $92 billion, but it will still be a third lower than the record high in 2013.
When Jim and Kathy Kachel moved into their home south of Bagley, Wisconsin, overlooking the Mississippi River in fall 2007, they couldn’t see the Pattison Sand Mine directly across the river in Clayton, Iowa. Since then, terraced layers of limestone carved into the northeast Iowa bluff have made way for more truck traffic as the mine, which occupies 750 acres — much of it underground — expands. Meanwhile, the Kachels have had to clean dust from their home.
At some farming operation in Iowa animal activists may legally be running an undercover sting operation to reveal inhuman treatment of animals. That's because last month the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, and senior Judge James Gritzner, threw out a 2012 Iowa law that made it a crime for people to gain access to agricultural facilities by “false pretense.”
A federal judge has struck down as unconstitutional a 2012 Iowa law that banned undercover recording at agricultural production facilities in the state, saying the law’s primary aim is curbing speech critical of practices at those facilities.
ByLeah Douglas/Food and Environmental Reporting Network |
Recent actions by the GOP-controlled Congress and the Trump administration have exempted big livestock farms from reporting air emissions. The moves follow a decade-long push by the livestock industry for exemption and leave neighbors of large-scale operations in the dark about what they’re inhaling. If that weren’t enough, environmental advocates warn that the failure to monitor those emissions makes it even harder to assess the climate effects of large-scale agriculture.
“See that brown building, to the left of the tree line? That’s the University of Dubuque. And a little further left, you can kind of see that little ridge, you can see it better some days, that’s the Platteville ‘M,’” John Foster, administrator for the Dubuque Metropolitan Area Regional Landfill, said, referencing the Wisconsin border-town’s landmark: a large white M on the side of a mound, by the Mississippi river. Foster was standing in Dubuque at the top of a closed landfill cell, one of nine cells the landfill has planned for the more than 600 acres around him — enough to last the Dubuque area in eastern Iowa through the century. But smaller landfills in Iowa have not fared as well as Dubuque’s the last 24 years, since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency created federal rules on issuing permits that municipal landfills have to follow.
Urban expansion, at least in the few areas where Iowa cities are growing, is eating up some of the state’s best farmland. In Ankeny, a central Iowa suburb of Des Moines that a May U.S. Census Bureau report ranked as the nation’s fourth fastest-growing large city from July 2016 to July 2017, much of the land being developed for housing is high quality soil for raising crops, an Iowa State University agronomy department survey shows.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture sets an industry definition for family farms. But that definition doesn’t take acreage size into consideration and can include operations where the family may not own the land, or even farm it. It defines what a family farm is for a consistent technical term in research and policy, which includes farm subsidies.
The number of new concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) have increased across the U.S. over the past six years - bringing the total operations just under 20,000, according to data from the Environmental Protection Agency. From 2011 to 2017, the United States saw more than 1,400 new large-scale concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) established. That’s up 7.6 percent. Here's a look at the issue in maps and charts.