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The Journal Gazette

  • Wolkins

  • Dygert

Wednesday, February 28, 2018 1:00 am

Feeding us a line

CAFO boosters altruistic claims can't bear scrutiny

Tim Dygert

Whitley County resident Tim Dygert is a member of the steering committee for Whitley Water Matters.

Nationwide, concentrated animal feeding operations are getting a lot of pushback because of their detrimental effects on neighbors, communities and the environment. It is an issue with which Whitley County is wrestling now.

One of the reasons this is being fought at the local level is that efforts at the state and national levels can’t get off the ground – in large part because they are opposed by the Farm Bureau and other farm lobbying groups.

An example of this is the recent decision by Indiana House Environmental Affairs Committee Chair Rep. Dave Wolkins, R-Warsaw, to deny a hearing for House Bill 1369, which included modest protections for neighbors of proposed CAFOs. In a recent interview with radio station WBAA in Indianapolis, he said the bill goes too far. He added: “I am pretty much pro-CAFO because we’re basically feeding the world with these CAFOs...”

I understand why the Farm Bureau and other agribusiness lobbyists attempt to block any restrictions on CAFOs – money. OK. that’s the American way nowadays. Those with the most money get to tell the rest of us what to do. But Wolkins has gone too far in parroting the “CAFOs feed the world” theme. This statement is about as full of crap as a hog manure lagoon.

The “feed the world” line sounds almost altruistic – how could anyone be against feeding the 800 million people in the world who are chronically malnourished? Except that is not the world we are feeding with CAFOs.

Meat is, relatively speaking, a rich man’s luxury. On average, it takes more than 11 times the resources to produce a pound of protein from meat than from plants. Because protein from meat is so expensive relative to from plants, it is just not possible for most of the world’s population to buy meat.

Our CAFO industry is doing well largely because of the aggressive support of the Farm Bureau, Indiana Soybean Alliance, Indiana Corn Growers Association, Indiana Pork, Indiana Beef Alliance and other groups that spend a lot of money on lobbying at the state and national level.

With regard to feeding the world, the industry is so successful that it was able to export more than 5 billion pounds of pork, more than 2.6 billion pounds of beef and more than 9.5 billion pounds of chicken in 2016. However, it is unlikely that even one ounce of the exported meat went to feed the chronically hungry of the world.

Eventually, the rich economies of the world will have to come to grips with reducing meat consumption so the estimated 9.1 billion people on Earth in 2050 will all be able to survive. In the meantime, agribusiness lobbyists will continue their work to increase profits for the large corporations by supporting unsustainable practices such as CAFOs while damaging the environment and community values.

I suppose that is capitalism at its “finest.” But don’t insult us by promoting the fallacy that the CAFO industry is in any way involved in feeding those in the world who go to bed hungry every night.