Corporate Farming Notes: Industrial Hog Operation Divides Community

The December 27, 2013, New York Times examines another industrial livestock operation dividing a community and troubling the nearby rural and small town residents (2,500 Pigs Join Debate Over Farms vs. Scenery). This time it is the people of Mount Judea and residents of the Buffalo River watershed in Arkansas, but we’ve reported similar accounts from many other locales across rural America.

C&H Hog Farms, Inc., located in what the Times’ John Eligon describes as “the pristine ecosystem of the Buffalo (river),” began producing pigs for Cargill in the spring of 2013. Much of the controversy surrounding the 6,500 head operation emanates from its proximity to the Buffalo River, which was designated America’s first “national river” and is a significant tourist destination overseen by the National Park Service.

Interestingly, a legal action brought by several environmental groups against the USDA’s Farm Service Agency and the Small Business Administration (SBA) seeks to block $3.4 million in loan guarantees provided to C&H.

As far back as 1981 the Center for Rural Affairs criticized SBA lending and loan guarantees in industrial livestock development. In a report authored by Marty Strange and Chuck Hassebrook entitled, Take Hogs, For Example, we pointed out that, “The federal government has also lent its good faith and credit to the emerging hog factory industry. Under the suspect logic that any hog operation that market less than $1,000,000 worth of hogs per year ... is a ‘small business,’ the federal Small Business Administration has lent over $20,000,000 to more than 100 hog factories, including many controlled by investors whose principal business is something other than farming.”

Sadly, the more things change, the more some things stay the same.

> On January 13, 2014, the US Supreme Court issued a decision in Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, et. al. v. Monsanto. The high court denied the plaintiff farmers the right to seek preemptive protection from Monsanto’s biotechnology patents. The farmers had sought protection from the court under the Declaratory Judgment Act so they could not be sued for patent infringement if they become victims of crop contamination by Monsanto’s genetically engineered seeds.

“However, in light of the Court of Appeals decision, Monsanto may not sue any contaminated farmer for patent infringement if the level of contamination is less than 1 percent. For farmers contaminated by more than that, perhaps a day will come to address whether Monsanto’s patents may be asserted against them,” said Daniel Ravicher, lead counsel to the plaintiffs in the case.

Get the Newsletter