Hog Wars - Missourians raise stink over giant operations

MACON, Mo. - People outnumber hogs in Missouri by about a 2-1 ratio.

But in sparsely populated northern Missouri, in counties where hogs have been part of everyday life for many generations and where people instinctively know the difference between a smell and a stink, tolerance for swine and their pungent natural byproduct has snapped. Fourteen counties have said they want no more operations with thousands of hogs, and at least nine more counties are exploring similar bans.

This grass-roots resistance in a major agricultural state marks a significant development in the often furious rural fight known as "hog wars." It is forcing agribusiness interests to change tactics in pursuit of sites that would make hogs, cattle and chickens by far the biggest populations in rural Missouri counties.

What separates the county-by-county Missouri battle from those in Illinois, Iowa and other Midwestern states is that rural counties here have said, "No more!" and have put the force of law behind their words.

The battle has been framed as a clash between agricultural economic development and the protection of quality of life.

"Farmers are not effete, Northeastern tailpipe sniffers," said Missouri Atty. Gen. Jay Nixon, who supports the local ordinance effort. "When they complain, it's real."

Agribusiness interests--commodity producers, the Missouri Farm Bureau and corporations such as Cargill Inc.--are alarmed by this rural insurrection and have been pressuring the state legislature to outlaw such bans.

Dan Cassidy, chief administrative officer of the Missouri Farm Bureau, said counties that ban large livestock confines are working against their economic self-interest.

"I don't think they realize the consequences," Cassidy said.

The resistance to large livestock confines has forced some agriculture groups beyond Missouri to adjust. In Iowa last month, for instance, the operator of a 2,400-head hog facility near Des Moines held a ribbon-cutting and invited neighbors to inspect the confine.

Source: Chicago Tribune
calendar icon 13 March 2006
clock icon 2 minute read
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