Introduction: To the old-timers this speaker will be familiar to you. He is Jim Yungclas who worked for the Iowa State University Extension Service in Dickinson County from 1969-1993. After he and his wife, Arlene, retired they moved to Wright County. As a result of being subjected to the negative effects of the Corporate factory farm industry there, they became members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, a non-profit citizens advocacy group, that speaks truth to power. Jim currently serves on their board of directors and will speak to one of their issues. The Negative Effects of Large Corporate Owned Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO’s) on Rural Iowa.
By Jim Yungclas
Thank you (I guess), as old as I am, I have never relished the thought of public speaking. What I have to say is spelled out before me so I will come close to saying what I intended to say and so you can see that there is an end in sight. I would add that what I say is what I believe, I do not speak for CCI, I am one of CCI’s 3500 members and when a member speaks that is CCI speaking.
Soon after my retirement an 80 acre farm in Wright County that was owned by my wife’s aunt came up for sale. It had been farmed by family members since 1893. The house was large a block 6 bedroom mansion in need of much repair. Some said it was bulldozer material but we decided it would be a challenge to buy it and fix it up.
The short of the story is as our dream was completed we became surrounded by factory farms to the extent we took our losses, sold the farm and moved to Grinnell. I might add I had been in Grinnell no longer than three months when a lady called on the phone and wanted to know what she could do to stop a factory farm from ruining her property and life. It happens all the time everywhere in rural communities.
That’s why I was very interested in the story that appeared in the Des Moines Register concerning CAFO’S moving into the Lakes Region.
If any area should be immune to the onslaught of the environmental, economic and social destruction brought on by CAFO’S it should be the Lakes Area.
However to me it raises the bigger question: What brings on this never ending corporate industrial type of agriculture that destroys the fabric of rural communities? Let me state up front. It is not the farmer! It is the governmental and corporate structure that controls farmers. The big players are the Farm Bureau, big agricultural corporations, the rural electric coops, the coop elevators and USDA policy all put in place by politicians whose elections are financed in large part by these corporate players.
Let me give you an example. A 1.4 million bird laying house just south of our farm was promoted by the Iowa Office of Economic Development and a group of outside investors as an economic boon for Wright County. Who lined up the property for these outside investors? The local member owned REC. One like the one my dad helped organize in 1935 because the utilities would not run lines to farms because it wasn’t profitable enough. Who provides feed for the chickens? The farmer owned Coop organized by farmers because Cargill wouldn’t pay a fair price for their grain. Where did they get their financing? From the Advantage Capital Agribusiness Fund. A fund set up by the Farm Credit Administration to foster rural economic development by financing large outside investors. The Farm Credit Administration was originally formed to finance farmers through Production Credit Associations. Does that sound like a system to help farmers or does that sound like a system to do farmers in? Now if the policy would have been to have 50 farmers each own 24,000 laying hens the income would have stayed in the county, not siphoned off by outside investors. That would have been rural development.
When I went into the army in 1954 there were 192,000 farmers in the state of Iowa. In 2012 there were a little over 88,000 and the number keeps shrinking. When I got out of the army in 1956 agricultural policy pushed by the USDA and the Farm Bureau was get big or get out. This policy was insured by slashing grain prices enough to break small farmers. Does that sound like policy to help farmers or does that sound like a policy to get rid of farmers?
I recently viewed the largest John Deere tractor made. It was on display outside the Agricultural Summit at the Iowa State Fair Grounds. It was put there as a symbol of modern agriculture. As l viewed this mammoth hunk of machinery I was reminded of a discussion I had with my tenant some time back.
I reminded him there was a time when I was on the farm we raised all kinds of livestock. Then I noted:
First all the broiler production left the farm and is controlled by
A few large corporate food processors.
Next all the laying hens left the farms to be controlled by large industrial agricultural corporations.
Then it was the beef cattle, the hogs and the Dairy
I then asked what do you think will be next to go?
That symbol of modern agriculture answered my question. There was no one in the cab. Modern agriculture doesn’t need or care if there is anyone in the cab. Corporate agriculture has the technology and the ability to farm all the land. They don’t need farmers to farm the land any more than they need them to raise livestock. All they need is labor, and the cheaper the better.
They are just biding time for the right time to seize the moment.
By now I am sure you are asking what does this have to do with a survey about local control.
Let me give each one you here something to ponder whether you are a farmer or not. We have gone from 18” of topsoil in 1850 to less than 5” today. We have developed a system of confining animals into extremely small spaces so we can devote all our land to corn and soybeans to provide cheap feed for these animals. This farming method increases soil loss. How long can we lose soil and mine fertilizer before these resources are gone?
It is only a question of when. The fact is it is going to happen because what we are doing is unsustainable. We do not have to grow our food this way. Do we want to ignore that fact? Or are we going to change our way of food production?
I commend the supervisors here for allowing this issue to be raised. Dickinson County is in a unique position to have this discussion because you are trying to protect your soil, air and one of the most valuable water resources in the state.
When I came here in 1969 one of the first issues I was confronted with was human sewage being dumped directly into the lakes. John Cory head of the Okoboji Protective Association and I along with many others worked to obtain a federal grant to install sewer around all of the Iowa Great Lakes.
It seems rather ironic that I am here today concerned about animal manure getting into the lakes. The 4400 head operation you were recently confronted with would have produced a significant amount of untreated toxic manure. In my opinion CAFOS should be required to protect everyone from the environmental affects of their operation whether it is employees or neighbors. This includes odors, and manure runoff. Currently odors and air quality are not even addressed. Manure management plans are in place, but once in place often are not followed or enforced.
I personally think our local elected county supervisors should have the power to decide whether a CAFO that fosters this type of agriculture should be allowed in the county. The DNR and legislature can enact the laws and rules, but the supervisors should have the final say. The DNR is controlled by their governing body, The Environmental Protection Commission. The Director of the DNR and the EPC that is composed of nine members are appointed by the governor. Five of those members have direct ties to the factory farm industry. They consistently vote with industry rather than their mission statement to protect the environment.
In summary I would say the “deck is stacked against us”. Our environmental regulations are made and enforced by industry insiders including the Iowa Farm Bureau that have given money to legislators, the governor and even supervisors to enact policies that allow our environment to be destroyed to enhance corporate profits.
That is why I am here today in hopes you will approve this survey. It is a start to hold people accountable.
Thank you for letting me come. It was a pleasure to have lived and served here and a pleasure to come back. I would be glad to try and answer any questions you may have.