CAFO foes applaud university study

INDIANA - Opponents of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) are citing a Ball State University study as proof that CAFOs provide very little economic impact in East Central Indiana.
calendar icon 6 July 2007
clock icon 4 minute read
"Hog farms in this area are absolutely horrible as an economic generator, and that's what they've written up," said economist Bill Weida, referring to the findings of a BSU study of the pork production industry in Jay and Randolph counties. "It is creating so little economic activity that it's almost irrelevant," he added.

Weida, an economist for GRACE Family Farm Project - whose mission is to eliminate factory farming in favour of a sustainable food production system that is healthful, humane, economically viable and ecologically sound - spoke at a recent statewide conference on how to restrict CAFOs.

He spent most of his keynote speech discussing BSU's analysis of the pork industries in both counties.

According to GRACE, feed for vertically integrated CAFOs is imported from the cheapest source, and most major purchases come from the outside. The money made by CAFOs is sent back outside the region, and the manure generated by CAFOs is deposited in the region. In addition, the organization says, CAFOs are designed to use as little labor as possible, and that labor is exposed to hazardous gases, thus few jobs are created and they're not desirable.

That's exactly what the BSU report confirms, according to Weida. "This is not hard (to understand) for anybody outside the (Gov.) Mitch Daniels administration," he said.

The study found that the hog industries in the two counties produce "virtually no multiplier ... or money circulating around the region to stimulate the local economy," Weida said.

The reason? "As the last page of the report states, if you really want to capture the benefits (from the rapid expansion of the hog industry in the two counties) you've got to get them to buy locally," Weida said. "But they're not going to buy locally because they are vertically integrated corporate organizations that make money buying from themselves. The study states they're not even buying their feed locally. That's why the economic impact is so low."

The study also recommends building hog-slaughtering plants in Jay and Randolph counties if they want to generate more economic activity.

"The report says if you are interested in reinvigorating this part of the state, there are 77 better things you can do here than hogs," Weida said. "Among them are things like raising soybeans, auto repairs, computer programming, the list goes on and on."

According to the study, the hog production industry ranked 78th out of 118 industries in Jay County in terms of highest output multipliers. The hog production industry ranked 103rd out of 147 industries in Randolph County in terms of highest output multipliers, the study found.

"It just lags way behind anything else that could be done," Weida said. "Hogs were not the only choice. Mitch Daniels could have said we are going to do lots of other things out here, and there were lots of other things, including agricultural things, they could have done."

Daniels is seeking to double pork production in Indiana. Jay and Randolph counties are helping to lead the way so far, doubling and quadrupling pork output in the past four years, respectively.

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