Extreme Vertical Integration Puts Existing Residents At Risk
Many Nebraskans are very familiar with the concerns associated with large concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO’s). GC Resolve has concerns too. Presently, Nebraskans are learning first hand about new extreme forms of vertical integration that threaten our culture through bad business practices now being forced on existing residents by retail giant, Costco.
Costco’s new extreme form of vertical integration violates Nebraska values. With existing residents' health and quality of life put at risk, a coalition of Nebraska groups have rallied together to compile their experiences over the last 5 years in a new report. This report shares also highlights how communities have come together to inform each other about the risks associated with large animal feeding operations, and summarizes the laws that need to be enacted in order to protect local residents. Please click the Nebraska CAFO Standards Report below to review.
Costco’s proposed operation is unlike anything our state, or even country, has ever seen. The project would process over 420,000 chickens per day, with a feed mill and a hatchery, all located in a floodplain adjacent to the Platte River. Over 22 million chickens will be housed in approximately 520 barns spread out over Eastern Nebraska and Western Iowa, all upstream from the Omaha and Lincoln metro areas, creating public health concerns as litter will produce excess nutrients that will leach into Nebraska waterways.
Costco barns locations inundate Eastern Nebraska and Western Iowa communities threatening the public's health and our proud independent farming culture. Some of these sites feature as many as 32 barns (or 1,520,000 chickens).
Growing Health Concerns
Health experts have begun to chime in too. A John Hopkins University Research letter written to the Fremont Mayor and City Council highlights concerns to water quality and quantity from large poultry operations, and also raises concerns about air quality. Costco and publicly elected leaders have widely ignored these warnings.
During the great flood of 2019 the Costco Poultry Processing facility located at Fremont, NE was nearly engulfed by the rising waters. Poor planning, as seen in the above example, puts area residents at a public health risk during extreme climatic events, and further threatens area water quality.
A young woman walks her dog at Linoma Beach in the spring. This scene is becoming more common in Nebraska lakes and ponds and is caused by excess nutrient contamination from industrial agriculture. This site is within a mile from the City of Lincoln's Water Wellheads.
Barns hold up to 47,500 birds apiece. Most chickens will take anti-biotics and growth hormones in their early stages increasing the threat to Nebraska waterways with the introduction of resistant pathogens.
Nitrate levels in Nebraska have continued to increase with the growth of agriculture industrialization. Excessive nitrate exposure can cause health issues like Blue Baby Syndrome, which can be deadly in infants, and in some cases various forms of cancer, thyroid conditions, reproductive issues, and diabetes.
We Have A Better Solution To Ag
That solution starts with the soil. More Nebraskans are moving away from degenerative farming practices that threaten the soil and are transitioning to regenerative agriculture instead. Regenerative agriculture focuses on improving soil health, which helps reduce rising greenhouse gas emissions, cleanses our water, and lessens the farmer’s dependence on synthetic inputs which improves their bottom line!
Regenerative farming and ranching create new rural entrepreneurial jobs around the food production system which helps to revitalize our state. Regenerative agriculture also puts livestock front and center, and advocates increased biodiversity and well-managed grazing systems. Our future is regenerative and resilient.