Local Control - Locals Controlling or Controlling the Locals?
A couple of weeks ago the Des Moines Register (who never makes a mistake, by the way) published some opinions about the state of local control of livestock facilities in our fair state (click here).
So, as a board member of the Iowa Farmers Union, I do support local control. The problem is, how do you define it? Currently, the Farm Bureau is trying to define local control to twist it into something no one would want (except the extreme greenies). I say we need to define it to best suit the situation at hand.
At our IFU convention last week we had an offer of an amendment that would require all residents within a 5 mile radius of a proposed livestock facility (no specs on size were given) to give their approval to allow the facility to go on. It was roundly defeated, thank goodness. I live within 2 miles of town, and if I wanted to feed 20 head of calves out this fall, I'd need signatures from around 1000 people, residing in 3 counties. This is an example of extreme control, and it is definitely not what Iowa needs.
On the other hand, I wouldn't want to be deprived of my property rights by constantly smelling the manure from a large livestock operation down the road (unless it was my own, of course).
I personally don't care for CAFOs; I think confinement buildings are too expensive for what they do, so I like hoop buildings myself - but then again, I'm a cheap a$$. But, I realize some people believe this is the best way to raise pigs. OK, that's their choice. If they want to be indentured servants to the integrators, that's fine with me. Go ahead and work for $10/head. Don't complain when they pull your contract and you're left with $250K left on the buildings.
We need a good neighbor policy in this state. Its too bad we need to codify something that is common sense, but that's where we are at today.
So, if you want to put up a building down the road from me, I'd like it if you 1) come talk to me before construction starts and explain howI won't be affected by smell, dust, traffic, etc, 2) show me that my property values will not decrease, and 3) show me any benefits I might receive from having a mini-city (in terms of waste and water requirements) a quarter mile away.
If a CAFO operator can show that I will not be negatively affected by their construction, or better yet, guarantee and insure against such infliction, I'm OK with their construction and operation. If they provide free manure to my land, that's even better. I'd feel even better if they lived at the site; at least they have some "local control" of their operation, rather than taking orders from West Des Moines, a la Jeff Hansen and Iowa Select Farms.
If you can't guarantee me these things, then we've got an issue. You cannot take anything from me without proper compensation. We must determine the value of clean air and enjoyment of one's own property. If you decrease or take away from my enjoyment, you must compensate. That may range from an annual payment to buying out my property entirely. I think that's fair.
Property rights on both sides need to be addressed. You have the right to do what you want on your property as long as it doesn't affect my property negatively. I can't tell you what you can and cannot do on your property.
Livestock is very important to our state. We need to continue to grow our cattle and hog herds to take advantage of our corn, soybeans, and ethanol by-products. But, we need to do so that respects everyone's rights. This needs to be done between the operators and the local residents; keep the activists and environmentalists out of the debate, as they only muddy the waters with their rhetoric and hidden agendas.