Only after the last tree has been cut down.  Only after the last river has been poisoned.  Only after the last fish has been caught.  Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.

"When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. In this context the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof." - Wingspread Statement of the Precautionary Principle.

Iowa
Index

Other Views: Legacy of Iowa Hog Farms: Pollution, Sickness, Anger
By Rebecca L. Kipper 
The Forum - 12/28/2003

Grand Forks, N.D.

Yep. Iím from Iowa. Corn and hogs.Ē I canít count the number of times Iíve said that. When I was young, we complained that the corn was boring and the hog farms stank, but these quaint pastoral icons of my childhood were near and dear to our Iowan hearts. They are part of who we are. Years later, Iowa is still a state of corn and hogs. However, we no longer joke about the condition of our landscape. We worry. And, we fight.

Proud of its heritage, Iowa welcomed advances in hog farming in the early 1990ís which allowed operations to attract corporate interest and grow to once unimagined scales. Our legislators and economists saw it as an opportunity to establish a big and wealthy industry to our state. Advocates of the new confinements and corporate neighbors appeased skepticism with promises enormous tax revenue, stimulation of the economy, a rise in property value, and more jobs for Iowans.

They said the new confinement systems were faultless, including infallible measures to protect groundwater, soil, and air from any possible contamination. They said the corporations would be the best of neighbors.

Once the confinements were established, we did not hear that our good old neighbor a few miles down the road had a new and better job. Instead, we heard that his small farm was driven out of business by the new, well-subsidized corporate giant in a nearby county. We did not hear that our good neighbors in the next town were selling their farm at a premium to new developers for new industries to move in. Instead, we heard the value of their land had plummeted due to the noxious fumes drifting above it and the polluted waters flowing below it.

We did not find that our public services were better funded than ever. Instead we discovered that confinements did far more damage to our public infrastructure than the increased revenue could possibly cover.

Now, grassroots organizations and community boards across the state do everything they can to keep hog confinements out of their neighborhoods. Meanwhile, the state continues to support the confinements, struggling to wring some return from their investment. The state and county governments vie for control over the zoning and permits.

Our sectors of the economy engage in devastating price wars to win now crucial corporate contracts. Neighbors argue over who will cover the cost of the crippling environmental damage. Brothers feud, one a wage-slave to the company that ruins the otherís livelihood. Our children are sick, our budgets are tight, our lands and waters are dying, our communities and families are divided and our options are running short.

And, the initial owners of the hog confinements are disappearing, having sold their ruined property to unsuspecting investors and moved on to look for clean space to build new ones.

Now North Dakota finds them on the doorstep, asking only for space and promising great returns. If Iowa had a second chance, if Iowa had the luxury of a nearby example, I like to think we would have said ďNo thank you. We will keep our small farms and our good neighbors. We will keep our healthy children, our healthy land and our peaceful land. No, thank you indeed.Ē

Kipper, a native of Ames, Iowa, is a research assistant at the University of North Dakotaís Upper Midwest Aerospace Consortium. E-mail rlkipper@umac.org

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