Guest commentary: When will farmers stop and listen?



In the March 4 edition of Farm and Dairy there are three pieces that should be read together and re-read several times.

First, on the front page above the fold we learn about the demise of several mega-dairies. Next, we read Susan Crowell’s editorial in which she continues to carry water for the industrialists with the disingenuous mention of a USDA employee’s religion and culture as proof of his altruism. In a third piece, we read that both candidates running for governor and both political machines oppose any form of animal welfare reform.

None of the information presented in these three pieces is surprising. For a political party or their candidate to oppose industrial agriculture, and the huge sums of money these agri-industries have for campaigns, would be political suicide in Ohio.

Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that neither political party wants to let the citizens of Ohio decide on the issue of animal welfare. Obviously both parties believe that big government fueled by special interest groups should make decisions for the citizens.

In emphasizing for a second time that Roger Beachy was raised in the Mennonite church, the editor implies that we should not question his point of view. She does not mention that since Beachy receives a paycheck from the USDA, he has no choice but to serve their needs. The editor does not delve into the science and research that Beachy is being paid to verify and validate. We will have to read other sources to get an unbiased point of view.

CAFOs not sustainable

Of all this subjective, rather than objective, reporting and editorializing, it is the news of the Vreba-Hoff dairies that is most telling. These CAFOs have failed. People were hurt. Lives were ruined. Property was damaged and devalued. Streams and rivers were polluted and air was, in some cases, made unfit to breath. And a lot of cows lived miserable lives.

No one has mentioned that there was strong opposition to these kinds of animal confinement operations when they were introduced to Ohio. No one mentioned that shortly after the first one was opened, neighbors saw manure run-off in ditches and streams despite the assurance from OSU and ODA experts that the soil would accommodate the amount of waste being created by a mega-dairy.

I wonder if the editor of Farm and Dairy would do a little research — check out the archives — and share with the readership the opposition that was raised by citizens of Putnam County — site of the first Vreba-Hoff dairy. The cries of the citizens were ignored, scoffed at by the industrialists, the academics and especially the Ohio Department of Agriculture and then Director Fred Dailey.

Obviously these CAFOs were not economically sustainable. Would the editor of Farm and Dairy along with Fred Dailey and the Farm Bureau admit that some serious mistakes were made when they advocated for these mega-dairies? Would they hesitate before promoting more of the same kind of production system?

Many of us know, regardless of our religious convictions, that a CAFO is not respectful of the creation. The destruction of soil, water and air by agri-businesses is an assault on the creation and the practice could not be called a sustainable practice by the editor of Farm and Dairy nor Mr. Beachy.

Need dialogue

Although I disagree with the editor’s narrow point of view and unbending loyalty to industrial agriculture, I would not claim that my point of view is beyond questioning or challenge. I’m willing to admit that no one of us has all the answers and no one of us is always right. I wish the editor and the agri-industries for whom she lobbies would have the courage to admit that they too are not infallible.

The editor and her crowd claim omnipotence and with their all knowing power condemn and demean anyone who disagrees with them. Even questions or requests for dialogue or negotiations are rejected by the all-mighty agri-gods.

The longer the agri-industries buy government protection, the more demanding the opposition to this system will become. There are times when a sow should be securely confined or restrained for the protection of her young and the farmer. By refusing to find the middle ground on this issue, farmers may find that government driven by voter demand will make the decision for restraint with or without the farmer’s point of view being considered.

There are more consumers than there are producers. It would therefore seem wise for the producers, the farmers, to listen to the consumers — their customers.

Consumers want to know

More and more Americans are beginning to ask questions about their food. How is it produced? Where is it grown? What is the environmental impact of our food producing systems? What kinds of animal husbandry are used in creating my food? Who makes the rules? Should the Farm Bureau control my dinner table?

Producers of food, the farmers, should listen.

As environmental issues, the concerns of animal welfare advocates and human health concerns escalate, the industrial model of the agri-industries will find less and less support for their cheap food. More and more regulations will be placed upon them. It is possible that these industries will have to move to Third World countries were little or no restriction exists.

(Parker Bosley is a chef and former restaurant owner and local foods/sustainable agriculture champion from Cleveland.)


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  1. Hear, hear Parker. Having been associated with Parker for the past 22 years when the Park Farms built their ten poultry buildings 500 feet west of my home destroying this Farm Bureau members life and property, I concur these industrial farms are unsustainable without a great deal of taxpayer money coming to their aid.

    For years I called upon Farm Bureau to create a two tier system of animal industry, those requiring permits to pay their fair share of taxes, have no zoning abatement having the permission of the communities in which they choose to reside, paying taxes based on their sales as any other responsible industry does. Farm Bureau has always thumbed its nose at this ignoring the fact that most other states do have this type of control on their animal industry.

    It is sad for the animals and sad for the neighbors who have had to live with the impact of these industrial livestock operations.

    Susan Crowell knows better but I assume will do whatever she has to in order to please Farm Bureau. Ohio can and should do better folks and perhaps with HSUS now in the picture they will be forced to listen to the people of Ohio.

  2. I’m compelled to share a brief response to the contention that F & D editor Susan Crowell is somehow part of a conspiracy by corporate/factory/mega agriculture to ruin farming and food production.

    As a former farm reporter and now “mouthpiece” for Ohio Farm Bureau, I’ve known and worked with Susan for close to 20 years. Here’s what I’ve learned. She asks tough, intelligent questions. Of everyone. No particular view gets favored treatment, and if you don’t have your facts straight and your opinions well organized, you’re going to get called on it.

    In short, I’ve learned Susan’s “unbending loyalty” isn’t to a practice or a philosophy… it’s to farm families.

    I’m sure that this post will be used as “evidence” that Crowell is the minion of “big ag.” I’d encourage family farmers to weigh in. Agriculture has its plate full with internal and external debates of many significant issues. When the integrity of one of Ohio’s finest reporter/writer/editors is questioned, it deserves a thoughtful response from F & D readers.

    Joe Cornely
    Ohio Farm Bureau

  3. I’m glad the Farm and Dairy has such a talented and hard hitting reporter in Susan that also cares about our local family farms. Thanks Susan and the Farm and Dairy for doing your best to help Ohio family farms. It literally means the world to me and my family.

  4. I was at a BZA hearing for a CAFO expansion. I noticed the ones who were for the expansion looking at each other like the rules were a joke.
    The owner assured the board that his farm would benefit the county. It damaged a well and a creek. This wasn’t the first time that he allowed discharge into a creek.
    When asked about total water usage, the figure given averaged out to only one ounce of water a day per cow. You can bet that the comissioners new the information was bogus. The BZA never caught this extremely low amount (something that a sixth-grader could have caught).
    Some guy (last name “Byers”) who was apparantly an “expert” said to the paper that everything was captured and treated. And here, I’m looking at a picture of a creek with green scum on top of it.

    Both my neighbor and I emailed our hand-dandy lt. governor Becky Skillman. She came within half a mile of us (not stopping). She instead went to the ground breaking ceremony and referred to the people who damaged a well, damaged a creek, who could care less about the environment, and who gave bogus information as “an inspiration to other farming families”.


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