This letter to the editor appeared in the Columbia Tribune, MO.
Independent family farms’ methods safe
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Editor, the Tribune: In light of Hank Waters’ confusion about chicken CAFOs and Cindy O’Laughlin’s confusion about family farmers, a lesson is in order.
Google “CAFO” or “Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation,” and you’ll learn a CAFO, or “factory farm,” is an operation where livestock are mass-produced in confinement and are usually, and most important, owned by a corporation and not the farmer (i.e. Smithfield, Tyson). These absentee owners, headquartered in fancy offices miles away, call the shots yet seldom go near their factories while local dollars funnel out of Missouri.
Another confused term: “family farm.” These days it’s necessary to include the word “independent” when referring to family farms. Conversely, independent family farmers make daily decisions about their animals. Sadly, these independent farmers, despite their rich heritage, find it difficult to compete with factory farms on an unleveled playing field created by agribusiness corporations that have, through big money and political influence, duped the public and politicians into believing factory farms are the same as independent family farms, which they’re not. Corporate dollars and special interests at the federal level block independent family farmers’ access to an open and competitive marketplace and take away jobs from our once vibrant rural communities.
Independent family farmers must remain strongly independent. No livestock board, filled with a handful of pro-industry representatives, need dictate daily decisions on raising livestock as independent family farmers have done so for centuries.
Both conservatives and liberals support independent family farmers’ safe and sustainable methods over factory farms’ antiquated and unfair practices.
I have said many times that if you want to know more about agriculture and food production you should ask farmer, not a search engine. This letter to the editor that appeared recently in a newspaper in Missouri proves my point. This lady Googled the term “CAFO” and she determined that it means a farm with mass produced, confined animals and owned by a corporation. Unfortunately, Google failed her in her quest to define the term.
At no time does a CAFO designation reflect who owns the livestock on the facility. As much as the anti-agriculture crowd would like to make people believe that, it’s just not true. It’s also a fabrication to say absentee owners make all the decisions. How could they? It would be impossible for these “absentee owners” to make any daily decisions about the health of an animal or to make ration determinations. These allegations fly in the face of reality and logic.
A CAFO is solely determined on the number of livestock that will be present on a farm or ranch and fed in a specific area for a certain amount of time. For example, on our ranch during the winter we feed our cattle in a designated area so we can provide them adequate protection from the weather and a balanced ration that matches their nutritional needs. Even though we didn’t have enough livestock to require us to do anything, we felt the right thing to do was create a more comprehensive nutrient management plan and become permitted.
So it’s interesting that since our family ranch took those steps to become better stewards of our livestock and land, people like Julie Fisher want to paint us in a negative light. It highlights the lack of understanding about animal agriculture and motivates me to do a better job telling my story.