HOW CAMPAIGN REFORM COULD CLEAN UP A LOT OF HOG MANURE
"Campaign reform" is much too polite a phrase. "Ending corruption" is
more like it. I could -- and maybe I will --write a column a week from
now till next fall's election counting the ways campaign contributions
corrupt our government, destroy our public assets and rob taxpayers.
Today's example is industrial hog farming.
As recently as 20 years ago, most pigs were raised on family farms.
Farmers kept a few pigs as "mortgage lifters," turning grain into a
higher value product. In 1980 the U.S. had 700,000 pig producers, most
with fewer than 100 sows.
Now there are just 150,000 producers, 90,000 of them still small,
providing just four percent of the nation's pork, barely hanging on.
Forty percent of our pig meat now comes from 1000 huge producers --
Murphy's Family Farms, Tyson's, Smithfield, Seaboard, Premium Standard
-- several of which are currently merging with each other.
These industrial producers of "The Other White Meat" have learned from
mega-chicken-factories how to raise tens of thousands of animals in
acre-size, climate-controlled, automated, antibiotic-soaked buildings.
Actually the companies rarely raise the hogs themselves. They provide
indentured farmers with buildings, piglets, medicines, chemicals,
sometimes feed, and buy back hogs at fixed prices. The farmers do the
work, bear the risk, live with the smell and deal with the obvious
We are told that this industrial way of raising swine is cheaper. At
the farm level it is, because it takes less labor. There's no
noticeable price difference at the consumer end, however. What happened
over the past 20 years is that the packer's share of each pork dollar
rose from 16 to 22 cents and the retailer's share from 47 to 60 cents,
while the farmer's share fell from 37 to 18 cents. That's what's
putting small farms under.
In Missouri the average $5 million hog factory generates 50 new jobs and
displaces 150 independent farmers. Family farmers spend about 80
percent of their revenues within 20 miles of their farms, but mega-farms
spend less than half their take locally. In the two North Carolina
counties with the most industrial hog operations, unemployment has risen
and sales and property taxes have fallen.
What does any of this have to do with corruption? Well, for a start,
these hog factories slide in on political grease. While Wendell Murphy
of Murphy Family Farms served 10 years in North Carolina's General
Assembly, regulatory control of large pig farms was taken from counties
and relegated to the state. The state then exempted them from liability
for environmental or health damage. Then it decided they needn't pay
gas, sales or property tax either.
As the number of hogs in North Carolina rose from 2 million to 13
million, surpassing the human population, the number of hog farms
dropped from 21,000 to 7,000. The state now boasts 480 big hog
facilities and 3800 open-pit manure lagoons, each roughly the size of a
football field and about 12 feet deep. (WHO decided to call those
The manure is supposed to be sprayed onto agricultural fields. But a
single hog operation in southwest Utah, designed to turn out 2.5 million
hogs annually, will produce as much raw sewage as the city of Los
Angeles. There aren't nearly enough fields within trucking distance.
For fields within trucking distance, you need a few hogs on every farm.
States that welcomed hog factories without asking hard questions are now
embroiled in messes. Indiana has suffered more than 200 hog manure
spills and is getting around to leveling fines for them. Premium
Standard Farms in Missouri has been found guilty of fraudulent
construction practices, multiple manure spills, and worker abuse. One
Illinois county saw property values go down by 30 percent because of the
smell of large hog operations.
The lead state when it comes to hog problems, is North Carolina. Swine
operations there produce more sewage than all the state's towns and
cities put together. There are over 600 abandoned manure lagoons. By
Murphy's law their owners are liable for nothing.
In 1995 a lagoon break spilled into a North Carolina river, killed 10
million fish, and closed 364,000 coastal acres to shellfishing. Then
came Hurricane Fran, which washed more lagoons into waterways, but did
not lead to new regulations. The Raleigh News & Observer asked in 1996:
"Did no one learn anything from Hurricane Fran? Is the Division of
Water Quality so foolish as to think the winds won't blow, the rains
won't fall, and the rivers won't rise again?"
By last fall, when Hurricane Floyd blew in right after Hurricane Dennis,
there were 3000 large hog operations on North Carolina's coastal plain.
The flood carried hundreds of thousands of gallons of hog manure,
combined with oil from underground tanks and chemicals from industry,
into streets, wells and living rooms. Thirty thousand dead hogs were
plowed into shallow pits in the floodplain. The North Carolina Pork
Council then had the gall to apply for $1 billion in federal aid to
repair flooded hog facilities.
Eighty percent of North Carolina's legislators have received campaign
contributions from the hog industry. In 1996 Farmers for Fairness, the
pork industry's cover organization, spent $3.2 million to defeat
hog-unfriendly candidates -- more than any other political action
committee or political party in the state. The largest recipient of
pork donations was Governor Jim Hunt, who once advocated reform of the
industry, but now just wants to study the problem. Bob Hall, research
director for the nonprofit organization Democracy South, says, "Hog
money spread throughout the legislature is another way this industry is
polluting our state's quality of life and our democratic freedoms. The
influence and access this money buys -- to the Governor's office, to
both parties, to legislative leaders -- poisons the environment for
discussing meaningful regulation of the hog industry."
In any functional democracy massive animal-feeding operations, if
permitted at all, would be tightly regulated, fined for their
infractions, taxed like everyone else, and made to clean up their messes
at their own expense. That will never happen until we get the hog money
-- and while we're at it the chicken money and the beef money -- out of politic
(If you can stand to know more about industrial hog farming, check out
www.hogwatch.org, www.factoryfarm.org, www.cfra.org, www.nrdc.org/nrdcpro/facto
(Donella Meadows is an adjunct professor at Dartmouth College and
director of the Sustainability Institute in Hartland, Vermont.)
"Felado : [Hungary]
"De (mert itt is van de) most jon az en fukar, kufar termeszetem.
"Szamolgassuk a penzt.
De mi mindent kellenne figyelembe venni ?
A mezogazdasagban manapsag nincs szamottevo teruletu
es stabil piaccal biro noveny.
Ugyanakkor szinte az osszes input az iparbol szarmazik.
Igy az ipar sok teruletenek 'eltartoja', amig tud fizetni,
illetve alapanyag biztositoja amig fizetnek neki.
(pl. nem fizet a Mizo tobbszaz termelonek)
A kerdeses energia pedig importbol erkezik. A repce termesztes
es feldolgozas javithatja a megelhetest a mezogazdasagban
ugyanakkor benttart nemi penzt is az orszagban.
Nemileg csokkenhet az energia fuggoseg es kisse javulhat
a foglalkoztatottsag vagy a megtartokepesseg a mg.-ban.
A Magyar Mezogazdasag ez evi 3. szamaban epp
a biodiesellel foglakoznak. Ausztriaban a legnagyobb uzem
evi 18 000 to-t produkal. Nemet o.-ban 91-ben 200 to, 1997-ben
100 000 to volt az ertekesitett mennyiseg. De Nemeto.-ban %-ban
? nagyon kevesen elnek a mezogazdasagbol, foglakoztatasi oldal
kevesbe lehet szempont !?
Az EU-ban jelenleg 6 %-ra teheto a megujulo energiaforrasbol
szarmazo energia, de 2010-re 12 %-ra tervezik novelni.
Valamire ok is keszulnek. Okuk van rá ?
Az a valoszinubb, hogy ott gazdasagosabbak lehetnek mas
megoldasok mint a biodisel a megujulo energia kategoriaban.
Pl. meglepve latom a sok szelkereket es Ausztriaban a sok
hazteton elhelyezett napkollektort. Pedig biztosan
rosszabbul allnak napsuteses oraban mint mi.
"Gondolatkiserlet: adjunk mindekinek ingyen (azaz allami
"tamogatassal) 20W-os 10 000 h elettartamu kompakt fenycsoveket a
"100 W izz?k helyett. Megtakaritas 80W*10000h=800 kWh vagy az
"eloallitasahoz szukseges kb. 8 GJ tuzeloho. 55 g/MJ fajlagos CO2
"kibocsatassal (ez a foldgaz erteke, szennel ennek a duplaja)
"megtakaritottunk 440 kg CO2 kibocsatast, mondjuk 2000 Ft-ert, azaz
"nem egeszen 5 Ft/kg egysegaron.
"Turelmetlenul varom a helyreigazitasokat.
Helyreigazitas helyett gondolatmenet 2.:
pl. miert nem engedik el legalabb az AFA-t a kulonbozo epitkezeseknel
hasznalatos szigeteloanyagnak. Vagy mint az izzot, adjak ingyen az
a kozetgyapotot, Austrothermet stb., es legyen minden haz falan
legalabb 5 cm beloluk a tetoterrel vagy padlasrol nem is beszelve.
A lakossagi futesnergia, amely a legszennyezobb egyben, 10-20 %-a
ha megtakaritasra kerul, mennnyivel kevesebb CO2 es sok mas
szennyezo anyag kerune a levegobe.