Our home state of Missouri has become more aggressive in courting corporate agricultural projects, particularly CAFOs, in the name of economic development, since the passage of the “Right to Farm” constitutional amendment and the removal of restrictions on foreign ownership of state land, both in 2013.
Already lax regulation has been reduced further, and the Missouri Clean Water Commission has been gutted of required citizen representation and threatened with merger into extinction. In addition, a citizen driven strategic plan for Missouri waters undertaken by the commission was scrapped by a new administration earlier this year, without reason, and after significant investment.
As traditional midwestern grounds for corporate farming have become more regulated in recognition of the related cost to water and quality of life, Missouri has stepped up to compete. Lobbyists own too many legislators, who dance with whomever contributes the most. Most folks seem to just trust the process, and choose to ignore the implications.
A map prepared by the Missouri Coalition for the Environment provides a glimpse of our predicament. Layer in significant CAFO concentrations in Iowa to the north, Kansas to the west, and now the new threats in Arkansas with existing CAFOs in Illinois and Missouri, and we are the “hole” in the donut. With an abundance of water, relatively cheap land, and the aforementioned absence of regulation, our Ozarks has a giant bullseye on its back.
With China consuming over half the pork in the world, Big Ag can grow, process, and export pigs just about anywhere, leaving the waste behind. It is a profitable business model until our waters are soured and our air is fouled. Big Beef seems to prefer western and southwestern climes for concentrated feeding. Big Pork and Big Chicken are circling, casting shadows all about.
Even as I write this piece, I read of plans for a 18,000 pig CAFO near the Arkansas River and Hartman, in western Arkansas. Now the Arkansas is no Buffalo, but 18,000 pigs, in one place, raised to sell to a Brazilian meat packer who will invest in the cesspool? Come on folks, this is the Ozarks. Family farms are part of our rich and colorful history. CAFOs are not family farms.
I fear for our precious Ozarks’ waters, over time.
If it can happen on America’s first national river, the Buffalo, it can happen anywhere.
Coming next, February 28, 2019 – WATERS OF NEW ZEALAND