To the Editor:
Much has been written and said criticizing animal feeding operations, but as a farmer, I question the reasoning.
I think it is impossible for the human species to know exactly what other animals think about their environment. Does a pig prefer to lay outside in a mud hole in all kinds of weather or in a clean, dry environmentally controlled climate? Would a dairy cow prefer to be tied in a tie stall barn all night or be free to wander outside and lay in wet snow or on ice-covered barn lots?
As I do chores in 30 degree weather with blowing rain and mud up to my knees, I know I would rather stay in my warm, dry, climate-controlled house. As for animal preference, the only way we humans have to gauge that is by the animal's production performance.
There is absolutely no question that animal performance, as measured by feed efficiency, daily gain or milk production, is better in confinement buildings. It is the nature of any business to try to produce efficiently and farmers have that right as well.
It would be nice if every farmer could still make a living with a milk cow, some chickens, a few hogs, 80 acres and a nice little red barn where the animals slept at night. It makes for a nice Norman Rockwell picture, but those days are long gone.
With the excessive cost of manufactured fertilizers, I would think farmers, with the luxury of having a source of free natural organic fertilizer, would try to utilize that resource on as many acres as possible therefore avoiding over application.
Sadly, excessive nitrogen use is a more common problem with our urban neighbors in the quest to see who can have the greenest yard in the neighborhood. After a heavy rain that chemically laden water is sent off down a fast track on concrete gutters and storm drains, dumping directly into streams and rivers.
I have no statistics or quotes from research or DNR, but I worry more about getting salmonella from my spinach and peanut butter than animal waste spread on a farm field. I can remember many people coming to our family farm wanting manure to put on their gardens in town. Those people were not worried about untreated wastes affecting their food supply.
The main issue at stake is Senate Bill 364. I am all for local control when it is practical and logical, but having every different county commission or health board set up a different set of rules and regulations based on the whims of people who are elected every two or four years is ridiculous.
If this practice wereallowed, every county in the state would have something different to enforce. This would basically drive commercial agriculture out of the state of Missouri. The economic impact of that would be devastating. Almost all of the so-called factory farms spend their money locally with building contractors, utility companies, feed suppliers, etc. Allowing local control of regulations and permits would be like driving down an Interstate highway having to adhere to a different speed limit every time you crossed a county line.
As for our rights as property owners, I feel as a farmer that I have the right to farm and should not have to worry about being sued or turned in by someone who moved to the country thinking they still lived in town.