Hay, Factories and Factory Farms

Our wet summer has rewarded us with lush pastures and hayfields.  I don’t normally cut hay in the fall, preferring to allow the land to rest.  But we came up a little short in the spring so last Thursday I mowed one of our fields. Yesterday I raked and baled it.  It produced 3 1/2 times more hay than we got in the spring.  It’s good to have it in the barn.

IMG_4374

But before I could get it there we had to stop and go attend a meeting at our local Ag Center, which was promoting locating a Poultry Processing Complex in our county.  This complex would consist of a 200 acre processing facility at which 1.25 millions chickens would be slaughtered and processed every week, a 25-50 acre feed mill on a rail line to create feed from grain shipped in from the Midwest, and a 15 acre hatchery.  To produce the chickens there would be 550 industrial “poultry houses,” each of which would hold 20,000 birds or more at a time.

The meeting was conducted by a team of consultants who are supposedly preparing a feasibility study on the project. But they acknowledged that their job is to prepare a report that would be used to attract a poultry company, not to do an unbiased, objective analysis of feasibility.

We attended and spoke against the project of course.  The meeting was sparsely attended and I doubt anything we said will make a difference.  It was a foregone conclusion when these guys were hired that they will conclude that our community is a favorable location for factory farms and a massive chicken factory. Of course that is the exact opposite direction from where we believe agriculture should be going.  It is ultimately unsustainable and an eventual disaster on many levels.

After the meeting we returned home and with the help of a friend we got up hay until nearly 11 p.m. last night.

I can’t help feeling a little sad for my community today.  It’s a beautiful place and I dream of seeing it dotted with hundreds of diversified, sustainable farms, rather than factories and hundreds of chicken hells.

Now we have another fight ahead of us, and this time it seems we’ll have fewer allies.

IMG_4333

But nature has painted another beautiful autumn.  And we have plenty of hay in the barn for winter.

Advertisements

34 comments on “Hay, Factories and Factory Farms

  1. Dee Ready says:

    Dear Bill, I’ve been away from blogging for two weeks and so I’ve missed your musings and your short essays that help educate me about so many things. So today I’ve returned and found that once again you have me thinking and realizing anew how far away we are from a community that truly values the land and its resources and that appreciates the life of all creatures–great and small. Thank you for reminding me of this. Peace.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Thanks Dee. There are some who have those values and I’m optimistic that the number of such people will continue to grow. But for now it can be disheartening at times.

      Like

  2. Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

    So, what will they do with the waste: primary /excrement and secondary /”byproducts” of slaughter? Is your municipal government asking questions – or simply blinded by the visions of tax dollars that dance in their heads?
    Have you been up against “progress” before in your area, or is the first? Good luck…

    Like

    • Bill says:

      For years we’ve been embroiled in battles to keep a uranium mine and mill out of our county. So far we’ve been successful. This chicken factory came on us very quickly, although it’s been in the works a long time.

      The plan is to spread the “litter” from the chickenhouses onto pastures and hayfields. The processing plant will have a wastewater treatment facility on site to treat the millions of gallons of water used to wash out the blood and guts of the chickens.

      As for the government, I was very disappointed to discover that there isn’t really any feasibility study. They’ve just hired the consultants to prepare something to be used to try to attract an integrator.

      Like

  3. Jeff says:

    Let us know if the local unemployment rate goes down … Who funds the “Ag Complex” – taxpayers? Any chance that you can use any of the waste from the factory?

    You probably know about this site, but I didn’t. The idea that Perdue can be held responsible for pollution is a step in the right direction.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Thanks for the link. I didn’t know about that site although I did know about what’s happened to Delmarva and the Chesapeake Bay.

      One of the selling points will be jobs–and our unemployment rate is one of the things that makes us an attractive site. But in every rural community I’m aware of where these things have been built the work force ends up being predominantly immigrants. I don’t expect that will be any different here.

      The Ag Complex is owned by a charitable corporation if I understand it correctly. Basically it was built with contributions from the ag industry.

      They will probably have a spray field for some of the factory waste water, but I wouldn’t allow it on this farm (and I certainly hope we’re nowhere near close enough to it for that). There will be a lot of chicken poo available once all the CAFOs are built but it would contain antibiotic residue and arsenic and we wouldn’t allow it here.

      Like

      • Jeff says:

        Yes, immigrants – because they will tolerate working conditions that no one else will. CAFOs love illegal immigrants because they are always looking over their shoulders for The Man and so will do anything they are told to do – for peanuts.

        A charitable corporation? That’s an oxymoron if I ever heard one!

        Privatize the gains and socialize the losses – one of the core “values” of capitalism.

        Like

      • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

        At the risk of sounding stupid…
        What’s a CAFO?

        Like

      • Jeff says:

        There are no stupid questions – Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation.

        Like

      • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

        Thanks.

        Like

  4. ain"t for city gals says:

    oh my….this would make me sick just thinking about it! A good book on this subject is The Meat Racket….

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I haven’t read that book yet but I’ve had it recommended to me before. It is sickening to imagine a 200 acre chicken factory slaughtering over a million chickens a week.

      Like

  5. Joanna says:

    Oh dear! Obviously people are oblivious to the results of the farm. During my research it would seem that ofttimes the way to get through to people is through art. Do you know anyone that could possibly produce a poster contrasting the dream in your head with the realities of the dream in the Ag Complex’s collective head? I can see it in my head, wish I had the skills to get it down on paper.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Good idea. One of the leaders of the opposition in an adjoining county (and a friend of mine) is a talented artist. He’s already done some artwork to assist in organizing and I’m sure he could do something effective along these lines too.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

    Okay, so I went back and reread all the stats you quoted in the intro… Simply mind-boggling. What DO they plan on doing with all the waste?? And chicken crap, at that!

    Like

    • Bill says:

      It’s an enormous amount of chicken crap. Each of the 550 houses will produce 150 tons of it per year for as long as they exist. The plan is to spread it on nearby pastures and hayfields as fertilizer until those fields are saturated with phosphorus and nitrogen. Opinions differed on how long that will take.

      Like

  7. Cynthia says:

    so frustrating! Maybe it’s just because of my interests but it seems to me there is a real outcry against the Big Ag farming methods. Poor chickens. If people knew what they were actually supporting when they buy meat like this, I think they would be horrified. I want to believe that anyway.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      There is an outcry but it is not evenly spread across the country. Two nearby counties in North Carolina rejected this kind of factory over the last couple of years based upon citizen outcry. The proponents of this factory are hoping our citizens won’t resist as the citizens in those counties did.

      One of the principal things we try to do in our movement is inform and educate people about what they’re supporting when they buy and eat industrial food. There has been an astonishing increase in the amount of chickens raised, killed and eaten in this country over the past few decades. We have institutionalized cruelty to chickens on a scale unprecedented in history.

      Like

  8. EllaDee says:

    Ah yes, and they’ll sell it with the same old trite “trickle down economic benefits” and “people need to eat” arguments…
    If people don’t believe hell exists, they should google “youtube chicken factory”.

    Like

  9. Coming late in the comment queue, everyone has said all that I would say on the potential horror of having such a huge poultry complex in your neighbourhood – in anyone’s neighbourhood. Suffice to say, I sincerely hope the opposition is able to bring home to your community just what a disaster this will be.

    On another topic…hay in October? I’m impressed, and I’m glad it made up for your wet spring. Hay ended here around Labour day.

    Like

  10. The possibility of a CAFO operation coming to your neck of the woods is disheartening. I wish you all the best in rallying up the county constituency to reject it. Wonder what those other counties did to successfully thwart their efforts. I applaud your efforts to stand up against it – it’s soooo easy to give up when the deck is stacked against you. I wish you well.
    Congrats on the hay!!!
    and what a beautiful autumn display – nice pic.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I asked the consultant, who job supposedly includes reporting on public support, why he would think such a project is feasible here after two counties in N.C. rejected it over the past couple of years. His answer was something about proximity to urban populations but the “between the lines” was that their populations are more educated, or perhaps not as desperate, as ours.

      A precondition to all of this is getting enough farmers to commit to building the poultry houses. They cost about $250,000 each and they need 100 growers to commit to an average of about 5 apiece. That’s a huge amount of debt to take on and the farmer is completely at the mercy of the poultry company (called an integrator) who owns and supplies the chicken and feed. The company has the authority to require upgrades and modifications to the houses and can terminate the contracts of growers who are performing to their satisfaction, leaving them holding the bag financially. I’m hopeful that they won’t find enough farmers willing to do it.

      Like

      • Jeff says:

        Excuse me for being dense here, but what’s in it for the farmer? He puts up $250K per poultry factory (I’m using the word deliberately), the integrator (Perdue or Tyson) supplies the chickens and the feed (for a premium price, no doubt) and the farmer gets what? Pennies? Sounds like a rigged deal to me – why would anyone go for this rip-off?

        Like

      • Why in the world would anyone sign up for this? They must have one helluva marketing program. Perhaps that’s the way around this – targeting the farmers that might be thinking about going this route and suggesting there might be a better way to invest $250k. Easier said than done, but dang – surely there must be statistics out there about these farmers that invest in these schemes not being able to keep their boats afloat. What are people thinking?!?!

        Like

  11. avwalters says:

    Test your wells now for a baseline. One of the most effective way to fight this development is with research and evidence on its impact on local water supplies.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      We’re organizing opposition now. Impact on water supplies will be a major issue. Concern over contaminating the water was a big factor in helping us defeat the effort to start mining uranium here (at least for now).

      Like

      • Bill says:

        That link isn’t working. Can you try again?

        Like

      • avwalters says:

        It’s a section from Organic Bytes. I’ll copy paste it–mostly a call to action on EPA regs re: Clean Water. It specifically calls out the issues of CAFO pollution. Here it is:

        ACTION ALERT
        Deadline: November 14
        “Water is the driving force of all nature.” – Leonardo da Vinci

        This past August, Toledo, Ohio, residents couldn’t bathe or wash dishes in, much less drink, their water. Run-off from industrial agriculture operations had created a toxic algae bloom that contaminated the water supply for over 400,000 people.

        In North Carolina, citizen activists have for years battled water pollution generated by the state’s hog farms that house 8.9 million hogs in cramped, filthy conditions and “flush feces and urine from barns into open-air pits called lagoons.”

        In Lincoln, Wis., about half of the town’s private wells have water that exceeds bacteria or nitrate safety standards.

        In Georgia, the country’s largest producer of chickens raised for meat, industrial poultry farms generate more than 2 million tons per year of broiler litter, a mixture of manure and bedding that must be removed from the houses and disposed of. It isn’t being disposed of properly, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—which says Georgia’s lakes and streams often contain “dangerous levels” of nitrogen and phosphorus.

        Industrial agriculture has made more than 100,000 miles of rivers and streams and 2,500 square miles of inland lakes too polluted to sustain important uses such as swimming, fishing, drinking, or the maintenance of healthy populations of wildlife, according to Environment Minnesota.

        Still, companies like Cargill, Tyson and Archer Daniels Midland, among others, want weaker, not stronger, rules for protecting your drinking water.

        It’s been 42 years since Congress passed the Clean Water Act. But loopholes in the Act, along with attempts by big polluters (including agribusiness) to weaken the law, have left millions of acres of wetlands, and approximately 60 percent of America’s rivers and streams, unprotected.

        The U.S. EPA wants to restore protection to those wetlands and waters—the source of drinking water for 117 million Americans. Which is why the agency proposed the Waters of the U.S., a rule intended to un-muddy the waters around which types of waters are, and are not, covered under the Clean Water Act.

        Big Ag is fighting the EPA’s attempt to clean up your water. Please tell the EPA: Stand strong.

        TAKE ACTION: Deadline November 14: Tell the EPA: Please Protect U.S. Waters from Factory Farm Pollution!

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s