June 26th, 2015
National Pork Producers Board
Cc: Laurie Johns
Re: Farming practices of board members.
I have farmed since 1974 and I have always raised swine in a family owned farrow to finish operation near New Hampton, Iowa. I have been at this long enough to have observed a lot of changes in both the swine industry as well as farming operations.
I turn on the television and I watch very nice commercials paid for with pork producer check off dollars and some of those dollars are mine. These nice ads tell the public how hog farmers do care about the environment as well as care for their stock. I have no doubt that pork producers can be found who do really live up to the message presented in this paid for advertising. However, the real world is not like what the ads tell the public.
The National Pork Board has representatives who run massive pork operations. These operations have been involved with farming practices that are a far cry from showing any kind of environmental consideration. I have observed wetlands being drained, large tracts of woodlands bulldozed and cleared for crop production. Permanent pastures have been plowed up. Highly erodible lands have been cleared of timber and planted to crops. Conservation Reserve riparian areas have been plowed up. One of these huge operations recently purchased a large tract of land next to our farm. This land has a Conservation Reserve Program riparian area and a nice wooded area for wildlife. This land also has a flood plain. We will be watching the way this land is cared for by “family farmers “, who supposedly represent the modern swine industry and claim to have such care for the environment.
Our farm has as many drain tile as most all farms in this part of the state. In the last ten years, the trend has been to install drain tile in between the existing lines to improve drainage. In many fields now, the tile lines are about 30 to 40 feet apart. When the liquid hog manure is injected into these fields, how long will it take before it gets into those tile lines? You know the answer, and this will become another major environmental headache for the swine industry. I predict that you will eventually lose that Des Moines waterworks suit and more suits will follow.
Water is becoming the central issue for agriculture and society. What we have going on is unlimited competition for limited natural resources. Modern agriculture and the large commodity organizations like to use the word “renewable” and yet I have not read a definition of what is a renewable natural resource until I ran across one given by the USGS. According to the Geological Society, a renewable natural resource is one that is created brand new in less than an average human being lifetime. Thanks to this definition we can now get an idea of what agriculture is actually doing to natural resources. Topsoil certainly falls into the non-renewable resource category and it has to be protected as it took Mother Nature thousands of years to create our rich prairie soils. Surface water is a renewable resource but the amount of it available for use other than crops is extremely limited. The great drought in California is being caused by an agriculture and urban demand on a renewable resource that is not currently being renewed.
Our society and our livestock agriculture in Iowa depend on groundwater. Every town, farmstead, and livestock building has a groundwater well drilled into mostly Jordonian sandstone. This water is 300,000 years old according to the Iowa Geological Service. The Jordonian formation is showing signs of great strain, as everyone continues to increase their demands on what is clearly a non- renewable natural resource. (Des Moines Register, November, 2014) The towns and the ethanol plants have deep wells and they are drawing immense quantities of water from this sand stone. Eventually, this will lead to the more shallow wells running dry. The more livestock setups that are built will just bring this to head sooner. Agriculture is going to have to learn to live within its means and that will be a big adjustment. Long term we will be far worse than the Central Valley in California. Their water will eventually return but our groundwater will be exhausted.
We will soon enter a time when there will be very few farmers left. As society witnesses this drastic transition, the little goodwill left towards “family farmers” will disappear. What will be left will be an agriculture exposed to every kind of public condemnation you can imagine. The current lawsuit between the city of Des Moines and the three upstream counties is only the beginning. You can buy all the ads you can afford with your check off dollars but you cannot fool the public forever. Agriculture's day of reckoning is here.
The farming actions of the few pork producers who are left are being watched carefully by a wary public. Every tree that is bulldozed, every acre of sensitive land that is being abused will feed public condemnation. Can you imagine the public relations disaster that you will have to deal with when the national media gets a hold of what is really going on?
Instead of laying down the public relations smoke screen that tries to cover up what is really going on, you need to confront your members as to what kind of an example they are really setting. In the long term, agriculture will be far better off when it gets criticism for the bad practices instead of being shielded by the huge commodity organizations.
Regardless of all of the supposed legalities involved with these decisions what really matters will be the rules that govern the real world. Man cannot live in denial of these and there are just 4.
1. WATER RUNS DOWN HILL, FAST ABOVE THE GROUND AND EXTREMELY SLOWLY UNDERGROUND.
2. EVERYTHING IS RELATED TO EVERYTHING ELSE. (TAKE A LOOK AT OUR RAPIDLY DEGRADING COMMUNITITES.)
3. THERE IS NO FREE LUNCH. THIS IS A LIMITED WORLD.
4. MOTHER NATURE ALWAYS BATS LAST AND SHE DOES NOT CARE ABOUT TIME.
You can choose to ignore this letter and I think you will, but in the end, I want to leave you with one question. What are you going to tell your grandchildren?
Ps: Your slick ads on the TV with the Farm Bureau Minute make me sick.
“Speak the truth and it shall set you free”.
1155 Jasper Ave.
New Hampton, Iowa 50659