Sunday, January 21, 2007

How you gonna keep 'em down on the farm..

When I was growing up, I lived on a small farm in Henry County. We were mostly a dairy farm, and we milked about 40 cows (although it seemed like 400 on cold winter mornings and hot summer evenings). We also had a few pigs, and a few chickens to keep us in bacon and eggs, and occasionally we sent a few hogs to the stockyard, and we always had extra eggs for the neighbors and relatives that didn't have chickens of their own.

We were typical of the small farms in the area. If you drove down the road in any direction, just about every farm had some kind of livestock. If you headed south towards Millville, Oakley Paul raised beef cattle, Jiggs Coffman had cattle and pigs, along with a few sheep and a couple of ducks. John Ball had some pigs, but nobody knew how many because they just ran loose in the woods.

Driving north took you past Marvin Luellen's feeder pigs and Herman Rodeffer's jerseys. I think it would be safe to say that every farm had some kind of animals.

Today, I can drive the 30 some miles between New Castle and Richmond on State Road 38, and outside of a couple of places with a few llamas, I can only find one farm that has any animals at all. It's a dairy, and it probably milks more cows than all of the farmers in my old neighborhood combined.

I guess it would qualify as a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation, or CAFO. There's a lot of opposition to them in Indiana, and our local state representatives want to place more restrictions on them, and our state senator is even calling for a three year moratorium on any new operations.

I tend to agree with Wayne County farmer Joe Meyer in this article that ran in the Palladium-Item recently. We have seen how excessive regulation, along with excessive taxation, has driven manufacturing to other countries. And as Mr. Meyer points out, there are a lot of countries that are more than willing to sell us our dinner. And I'm not opposed to importing a meal or two, but wouldn't you hate to have someone else holding all the cards?

I don't believe 1000 hogs or cows on 1 farm will create any more manure than 100 hogs or cows on ten farms, but the possibility does seem to have upset an awful lot of people. But I do believe farmers have the right to farm, and we all need to eat, and I think we can without solve things without more state regulations or moratoriums. Maybe by using some of these ideas that we proposed last fall.

I know we all have to accept change, but it was economically feasible, I wouldn't mind if farming was like it was when I was a kid, as long as I didn't have to milk those cows.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, before we can talk about CAFO's from a "libertarian" perspective, I think we need to cut out all the federal taxation that turns into farm subsidies. Not a popular concept round these parts, but I do not think that the government should choose 1 form a commercial activity (like farming) and make the rest of us support it through taxes/subsidies.

Once we force the agricultural industry to stand on its own legs, I think discussions about ethanol and CAFO's and other big agriculture projects will be much more rational.

2:58 PM  
Blogger Rex Bell said...

Amen! And now we are heading into double subsidies. We subsidize the corn when it is grown, and then subsidize it when it is turned into ethanol. Supply and demand will produce the most economical results in the long run.

7:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Braver words have not been spoken by a politician in the corn belt.

Hats off to Mr. Bell.

11:07 AM  

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