The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

April 22, 2008

Voices: CAFO is a bad word?

Jo Manhart, I appreciate your cheerleader approach to concentrated animal feeding operations in Missouri (Globe, April 13). But since you work for the companies that need CAFOs and are paid by them, you really should register yourself as a lobbyist.

While I applaud you for not taking on the argument of karst geology and how fragile it is in the Ozarks, I wish you would study further the oversight of manure management. The Department of Natural Resources, the agency in charge of oversight, is so short-staffed that inspection of CAFOs is rarely done but once every two or three years if at all. Following the trail of manure application on land is not even attempted and at worse is compounded by the fact that other states are bringing their litter into Missouri with no oversight.

While it is true that we have a great agricultural system and they are very efficient, I would like to ask a few questions of you. Why do we continually overproduce livestock and ship them overseas when we cause a food-price inflation to our own people? This overproduction does generate revenue, but at what cost? We are depleting our groundwater (all CAFOs use wells) at the rate of 7.7 gallons per 100 chickens per day. In the Elk River and Spring River Watershed, there are around 190 million chickens and turkeys. To produce more and more feed requires that grasslands, forests and marginal land be converted to cropland and sometimes irrigated at a cost to groundwater. Doing this depletes soil fertility, aids the erosion of our precious soil and places further strain on our streams to absorb the chemicals used for high production quotas. We use fuels imported from foreign governments to farm this additional land and worse yet to fly these products to foreign countries. I suggest you and the economists do the math and decide what is the real net, not gross, profit from these industrial agribusiness operations. I have not the space to go into pesticide use, pharmaceuticals used in production, genetically engineered disasters or other related topics.

We cannot afford to continually use up our precious resources and then find down the line that we are out of water or have insufficient soil fertility to feed the citizens. I ask you what is enough, or is there ever enough, and when do we clean up our streams from the residue of bad business? How do we compensate for the loss of the true family farm that is being run out of existence by agribusiness trying to control a global market?

Dwayne Miller