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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Factory Farming in Missouri

The Joplin Globe published an excellent article on confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in Missouri: "Study: CAFOs affect neighbors' property". These operations have been replacing traditional animal farms for years -- bringing with them debilitating conditions for animals, food packed with growth hormones with unresearched effects on consumers and now problems for neighboring human and animal populations through waste-water run-off. This is not to mention the number of family farms lost through factory farming.

In the St. Louis region, there are many CAFOs in Illinois counties like Monroe and Missouri counties like Jefferson and Lincoln. Urbanists often talk about stopping sprawl through growth boundaries and form-based zoning, but there is a much less frequently-addressed part of the sprawl question. If we stop the creep of the suburbs, what do we want the rural lands surrounding St. Louis to look like? What sort of land uses are sustainable and acceptable, if large subdivisions, strip malls, office parks and the like are out of the question? What jobs will people have?

Healthy agriculture is key to sustaining open land around the metropolis. Currently much of the land within our Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area is devoted to farming. As the energy crisis mounts, that amount of land may not change much. Yet "farming" as we know it has been altered to an unrecognizable world of factory farms, hormones, chemicals and corporations. Does agriculture in current practice serve the interest of a sustainable St. Louis region, or do we want to adopt a model that conserves our rich soil, sustains open space, preserves what's left of family farms and prevents the poisoning of surrounding land?


GMichaud said...

Agriculture as it is practiced today is a disaster. The mono culture, whether of animals or crops is damaging soils and the health of the nation.
Farmers have been pushed this direction by the mega capitalists, in whose eyes everything is better if only it were bigger.
Agriculture practiced less than several generations ago depended on soil fertility by rotating crops, planting nitrogen producing crops such as clover and stewardship of the land creating a balance between animal and crop production. Today large farms are one dimensional and the various corporate inputs such as chemical fertilizers, genetically modified seed and various insecticides allow farmers to circumvent natural processes.
The imagined capitalist gain of crop and animal production is offset by the high energy costs needed to produce and ship the crops to the end user.
It is another pattern of failure in American policy, supported by farm bills passed by Congress with input from their corporate handlers.
This pattern of failure mirrors the failure in the cities.
Thankfully there is also dissent in the farm communities also, with Nebraska taking the lead in curtailing the mega pig factories by law with the Center for Rural Affairs an active agent representing the farmers. http://www.cfra.org/

Doug Duckworth said...

I would like to see towns in Missouri promoted as tourist destinations. Whereas many may not be as attractive as some in Illinois like DT Belleville, Alton, or Granite could be with leadership, there is opportunity for Missouri with historic nominations. The inclination against a green belt in St. Louis is that largely failing farmers happen to make a profit selling out to suburban developers. There must be an incentive for them to say no and say yes to something else. Until then a green belt will never happen given our lack of regional authority and lower status within State government.

Michael R. Allen said...

We talk a lot about the need for clean air and water, but we rarely talk about the need for good soil. Soil is the most important natural resource we have; without good soil, we won't have good food.

Anonymous said...

Do any of you actually know anything about farming? Do you know any farmers?

Michael R. Allen said...

I grew up in Illinois farm country and know many farmers. I watched family farms folding when I grew up. I've done farm work. One of my favorite writers is a farmer: Wendell Berry. What else do you need?