Published in the August 7 edition of the Fairfield Weekly Reader
What’s Going On in
by Diane Rosenberg, Executive Director, Jefferson County Farmers & Neighbors, Inc.
Throughout Southeast Iowa, hog production is ramping up. Favorable
market conditions are driving expansion throughout Iowa, and Southeast Iowa is
In 2011, Governor Terry Branstad set a 2016 goal to increase
pork exports to Southeast Iowa by 20%. Since then, the number of new CAFO
applications has increased four- to eightfold in the years 2011-2013. The number
of this year’s new applications is on track to surpass 2013’s figures.
China is one of the largest drivers of hog mania in Iowa. It’s
cheaper to produce pork in the US than China, according to USDA figures. In
2013 the Chinese company Shaunghai International purchased Smithfield Foods to
feed its growing middle class. This left a vacuum in the American pork market
that corporations are scrambling to fill.
Lower corn and soy prices also are driving up profits and encouraging
expanded pork production, as reflected in the titles of recent National Hog Farmer articles, “Pork
Producer Profits Have Never Been Better” and “USDA Reports Show the Good Times
Ironically, production losses from Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea
Virus (PEDv) are also adding to pork profits as a 10% shortage is increasing
prices by as much as 15%. Production is also increasing to make up for these
Southeast Iowa is seeing growth for additional reasons.
Cargill announced plans in 2011 to construct or expand 30 CAFOs in Southeast
Iowa. It’s currently building a feed mill in Hedrick, strategically located
near Southeast Iowa CAFOs for economic efficiency. The Excel processing plant in Ottumwa is
already a magnet for CAFO development; a Tyson’s plant operates in Columbus
In the fall of 2013, integrator David Eichelberger, owner of
Eichelberger Farms and Milling, announced plans to build 40 more CAFOs in this
area as soon as possible to capitalize on lower corn prices.
Wayland turkey producer, AgraWay Partners, announced plans
this year to open a hog division, building 48 CAFOs in Henry, Des Moines and
Louisa Counties. The DNR says Southeast Iowa is attractive because the
countryside is not yet saturated with CAFOs, reported the Burlington Hawkeye.
The Situation in
Jefferson County has seen its share of new CAFOs this year
with 10 either proposed or under construction in less populated areas of the
county. JFAN is working with neighbors who have reached out for help.
The bigger picture, however, relayed by many diverse, local
sources, is that the presence of JFAN and the Iowa legal team of Charlie Speer,
Richard Middleton, and Fairfield’s David E. Sykes is discouraging and preventing
even greater development.
JFAN is perceived as a headache to CAFO owners because of
our ability to help groups organize and pick apart applications. The Iowa legal
team is discouraging CAFOs because Jefferson County is perceived as “sue
We must keep this deterrence up in order to keep our county
from being overrun with CAFOs. Your support of JFAN during our 2014 fundraising
campaign is crucial for us to continue our work in Jefferson County.
JFAN realizes its time to work with other groups on the
state level in order to protect our home base. Partnering with the Socially
Responsible Agricultural Project, JFAN is organizing a meeting this August drawing
over 30 national, state, and local organizations interested in working on a
collaborative strategy addressing the CAFO problem in Iowa. We are excited by
the enthusiastic response and committed to doing all we can to continue to
protect Jefferson County.