The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

April 12, 2008

Guest column: CAFO doesn’t have to be bad word

By Jo Manhart

Globe guest columnist

Your piece “Bill gives boot to CAFOs” sure hurts my feelings. That acronym seems to have become a free-standing, four-letter word bearing no relationship to the thing it originally represented.

I think the genesis of the now-familiar word “CAFO” was a document called “EPA guidelines for concentrated animal feeding operations” published in the late 1980s or early 1990s. At the end of the document, a name and phone number was provided to call if you had questions. I had a question, so I phoned “Willie Mae” or whatever her name was. We had a nice talk, she seemed to appreciate my call, and in passing I said “Have you ever been on a poultry farm?” She said she hadn’t; then I asked if she’d ever been on a farm of any kind, and she said she had not, but would sure like to.

Instead of not knowing, as was the case here, it would be good to “know.” When farmers invite people to tour their facility, as Kip Cullers of Stark City did last July for a “Lunch and Learn” tour of his soybean farm, there was an opportunity to also tour a Butterball turkey-rearing barn. (By the way, Kip set the world record soybean yield, and the fertilizer he used was turkey and broiler manure.)

Missouri’s livestock and grain producers plan to offer more tours in 2008. In each case the local press is invited, and I surely hope you accept the invitation to see for yourself, and not be like Willie Mae, who helped produce an important document without a lot of real information.

I feel sure your facts about the porous nature of the Ozarks is absolutely correct, but I have trouble figuring out what that has to do with pigs, turkeys, broilers or layers. Instead of being in the open barnyard where runoff could occur, they’re under roof, and their manure is strictly managed. Today I learned that layer manure goes for $40 per ton in Indiana, $300 per ton if granulated for golf courses. There’s enough manure in the state of Missouri to fill the need, all we have to do is get it from one place to the other.

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