From Vicki Allen
“…Revenue-sucking, health-endangering, property-value wrecking hog confinements…” As I read this sentence in a recent letter to the editor in this newspaper by Jim Garrett, I thought here is another misleading statement that sheds a bad light on agriculture in Iowa.
Well, let’s start with looking at the revenue that livestock farms bring. No county in Iowa has more livestock per capita than Sioux County. Sioux County has an area of 769 square miles, a 2012 population of 34,268, there are 1,664 farms, more than any other in Iowa. According to the ISU Extension service, sales per farm in Sioux County in 2007 were $673,764, which means livestock generates the greatest portion of farm sales in the county. By the way, all of those livestock farms pay property taxes, so one could hardly call it "revenue sucking!"
As for the property values; according to Reuters US Online Report Domestic News, land values in Sioux County have tripled since 2000. The reasons named in the report; rich soil, favorable weather trends, a high concentration of livestock and bio-fuel operations and an intensely competitive farming culture. And with record prices of farm land also coming from that county, one can hardly claim a negative property-value impact.
Even when it comes to health impacts, the studies also clearly claim that Iowa’s top three pork-producing counties have the healthiest residents. According to the 2013 county health rankings, Sioux County has the healthiest residents in Iowa, ranking first in health outcomes, second-healthiest in mortality and third-healthiest in morbidity.
The point I want to make is as a livestock farmer, lifelong resident of Union County and someone who knows and works with farmers from all around the state, it’s not only wrong, but mean-spirited to paint modern livestock farmers with the kind of broad strokes Mr. Garrett used in his recent letter to the editor.
Consumers want choices in food they put on their family’s table. If you want ‘grass fed’ or ‘organic’ and can afford to buy it, that’s great. Scare tactics, hysteria and self-righteous fear-mongers may not realize they are actually taking choices away from those who can’t afford their one-size-fits-all, ‘my way or the highway’ food production methods. If you have questions about farming, I hope you ask a farmer. We are happy to show you the other side of the story.