After reading the heavily slanted special report on Dutch dairies (Changing Places in the June 12 edition), I couldn’t help but wonder why these facilities were presented as such a boon to Ohio farming.
Yes, they could initially provide investment dollars into the local rural economics: dollars to whoever sells the land, designs the facility or builds the building. Over a period of years, they will, I am sure, purchase supplies, groceries, clothes and household items, and pay taxes as does every other citizen in the area.
What I have to question is whether or not the community benefits from the facility over the long run.
According to Bowers and Hamrick’s Rural Conditions and Trends: Socioeconomic Conditions, studies have found that CAFOs displace three times as many jobs as they create.
The overproduction brought about by these facilities will only bring the hundredweight milk price down even lower – knocking those dairymen who are just making ends meet right off the farm, creating a downward spiral as less money is spent in town and retailers and feed mills downsize to adapt to lower sales figures.
Property taxes are going to continue at CAUV rates, so these facilities won’t bring enough additional income into the local government coffers to cover the expense of the cleanup after one of their “learning curve” manure spills. There is no mention of the history of the loss of property values near these facilities.
At the state level, it becomes even less cost efficient to have these facilities.
Where the EPA rarely was called in to deal with farm spills before CAFOs became “the way to raise livestock,” Ohio now needs a separate division of the Department of Agriculture to regulate, inspect and police them.
And it is the one division not subject to cuts as our legislators try to work out a budget in a sea of red ink.
Do the fines brought in from state-level citations cover the costs of inspections, policing and cleanup? What about the costs of citations and litigation?
I can’t even begin to imagine what the state of Ohio has spent to investigate and prosecute just Buckeye Egg Farm, much less the other lower profile farms like Ohio Feedlot Inc., Sunnyside Farms or Day Lay.
Whether the “farmers” are Dutch- or American-born, these facilities are not farms. They are factories and the animals confined in them are no more than pieces of equipment, pushed to produce, and disposed of before their time simply to prove that more milk can be produced on smaller acreage by fewer farmers.
They lower the value of the product by flooding the market, put neighbors out of business – not only off the farm, but also off of Main Street USA – and turn our rural areas into stinking, fly-infested wastelands as fields are over-manured and prematurely worn-out livestock are loaded into compost piles to rot.
To those readers who wrote in claiming they would welcome these farms into their communities, I suggest you contact Vreba-Hoff directly to offer the location nearest you.
(The author is the chair of the Ohio Family Farm Coalition.)