Industrial Agriculture And Indpendent Family Farming Are Not The Same
With the concentration of global monopolies so has come the concentration of farms and increased Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO's). These days industrial CAFO's are larger than ever and they are often recruited from out of state. Nebraska is an ideal target for industrial animal agriculture because of Nebraska's vast natural resrouces including our water, and our productive soils which produce high yielding commodities used for feed. The idealic picture of the barn and silo on the midwestern family farm is now being transformed into a global network of large animal confinement systems.
As agriculture monopolies have grown powerful they have seized more influence over the government. This has led to an aggressive deregulation of common sense laws that once protected independent family farms and surrounding rural communiites. As the independent agriculture structure collapsed in favor of the industrial model, both the ecosystem and the public's health have experienced new risks from contaminated water and air. This extreme form of agriculture violates Nebraska values and threatens our state's future.
Industrial Agriculture Puts Nebraskans At Risk
Nebraskans are learning about new issues associated with industrial agriculture. A recent study from the University of Nebraska Medical Center finds patterns between high nitrates and atrazine, and pediatic cancer. Investigative research by the Flatwater Press shows how state government has take little action to protect the public's health, even as data has shown that the quality of Nebraska surface and groundwater has become compromised.
A new 3-year analysis released in December 2022 by the Nebraska Farmers Union Foundation found other alarming trends. Despite public assurances from industry experts stating that dry litter would not leach into waterways, the analysis showed that there was an increase in the nutrient phosphorous. In excess, phosphorous can cause a condition called eutrophication, or toxic algae, which leads to the death of aquatic animal life from lack of oxygen and can be seen in surface water across the region and in the Gulf Coast. Increased phosphorous was shown to be connected to increased levels of pathogens in the seven monitored Nebraska waterways.
The analysis offers recommendations that advocate for increased testing, data, and cooperation to identify problem areas. The analysis also makes policy recommendations that should be implemented immediately to stop oversaturation and excessive leaching of litter. Review the Nebraska Farmers Union Foundation Poultry Litter and Stream Health Analysis by clicking the image below.
Largest Poultry Operation In U.S. History
Costco’s proposed operation is unlike anything our state, or even country, has ever seen. The project processes 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 are housed in approximately 500 barns spread out over Eastern Nebraska and Western Iowa, all upstream from the Omaha and Lincoln metro areas, creating new public health concerns as excess litter increases chances of leaching into Nebraska surface and groundwater.
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).
Health Experts Warned Officials Of Risks
A John Hopkins University Research letter composed in 2016 to the Fremont Mayor and City Council advised of common concerns to water quality and quantity from large poultry operations, and also raised concerns about air quality. Costco and publicly elected officials largely ignored these warnings.
During the great flood of 2019 the Lincoln Premium Poultry (Costco) 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. Excess nutrient levels lead to eutrophication which creates blue-green algae. This scene, only a mile from the City of Lincoln's Water Wellheads, is becoming common in Nebraska's lakes and ponds.
Costco barns hold up to 47,500 birds each creating massive amounts of poultry litter. The heavy concentration of birds has also been an incubator for the Avian Bird Flu. In 2022, millions of infected birds were euthonized and composted in Nebraska.
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.
There Is A Better Solution For Ag
That solution starts with the soil. More Nebraskans are moving away from extractive industrial ag practices and are transitioning to regenerative agriculture. Regenerative practices focus on improving soil health which reduces rising greenhouse gas emissions, filters and cleanses our water, and lessens farmers' dependence on synthetic inputs. Regenerative farming and ranching incorporates more biodiversity in farming which allows for easy incorporation of animal grazing systems, and allows for new rural entrepreneurial jobs around food, nutrition, health and wellness. Nebraska's future is regenerative.