These famous words in the 1970s, by former Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz, led to a consolidation of agriculture that continues today.
In 2017, a Wall Street Journal analysis showed that rural counties have replaced large cities as America’s most troubled areas by key measures of socioeconomic well-being.
Today 90-95% of all animals raised for consumption are housed in confinement buildings known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations or CAFOs.
As of 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates there are approximately 20,000 CAFOs in the United States.
CONSOLIDATION OF WASTE
The consolidation of animals means the consolidation of manure. A single CAFO can create as much feces and urine as a small city.
There is an estimated 369 million gallons of animal waste produced by confinement operations in the United States.
In most cases, the raw animal waste is applied directly onto farm fields, which has been documented to contaminate groundwater.
Research has found numerous contaminants in groundwater including nitrates, e.coli, rotavirus and campylobacter.
Fans located at the back of the confinement buildings blow volatile organic compounds into the air.
Liquefied animal waste emits 160 known toxic gases, including hydrogen sulfide, a deadly gas with the characteristic stench of rotten eggs.
IMPACT ON RESIDENTS
Residents living near a CAFO experience adverse health effects from pollutants. The elderly, pregnant women and young children are the most susceptible to illness.
CAFOs are often sited in low-income or minority communities — often with high rates of asthma and cancer.
REDUCED QUALITY OF LIFE
Over 500 residents in eastern North Carolina in low-income and minority communities are currently involved in a nuisance lawsuit against Murphy-Brown, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods.
Duplin County, North Carolina is known as the hog capital of the world with 2.2 million hogs.
COMMUNITIES UNDER ATTACK
In Tonopah, Arizona, over 6,000 residents are living under potentially toxic levels of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide from two facilities totaling 8 million egg-laying hens.
Symptoms from ammonia exposure include watery eyes, scratchy throat, coughing and tightness in the chest.
A RIGHT TO FARM
Most states have “Right to Farm” laws that protect factory farms under the guise of “standard agricultural practices.” In most cases, these laws allow CAFOs to pollute above and beyond the legal limits set for “non-farming” industries.
In most cases, CAFOs are exempt from having to abide by standards set by the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.
Right to Harm unveils the public health crisis in rural America through the stories of five disenfranchised communities across the United States.
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