South Dakota: 2012 Ag Development Summit livestock panel examines threats to animal agriculture
NIMBY is an acronym for “not in my backyard,” a feeling shared by many community members who fight new dairy or hog facilities from being set up near their towns.
Barring a lawsuit to stop it, a new hog facility owned by Jackrabbit Family Farms is headed toward reality in southern Davison County near Mitchell, SD. The Davison County Commission voted earlier this summer to allow the facility to proceed, despite protests from landowners who live in the affected neighborhood.
Although residents fought hard to stop the facility, the Commission said Jackrabbit Family Farms showed “due diligence in the application process in meeting the requirements of the Davison County Comprehensive Plan, and has shown compliance in meeting county standards for an animal feeding operation.”
The project will house 5,400 sows, as reported by Mitchell’s Daily Republic, where they opined, “If a hog operation can’t gain approval to build 10 miles out of town in a rural area, where can such places ever hope to set up shop?”
There are many who don’t just believe in the acronym NIMBY, but instead stand by NOPE or “not on planet earth.” This philosophy is the biggest obstacle facing pork producers according to Luke Minion, a veterinarian and chief executive officer of Pipestone System in southwest Minnesota. Minion spoke during a livestock panel discussion on June 27 during the Governor’s Ag Development Summit in Pierre, SD.
“We follow all the rules, and then they say no,” Minion said, in reference to the rules and regulations pork producers follow, only to be rejected by communities.
Minion stressed that South Dakota must welcome these operations or risk losing the opportunity.
“If we can’t do it in South Dakota, where will we do it?” he asked. “We’ll do it in China.”
Nathan Jensen, vice president and dairy industry specialist with Farm Credit Services of America, joined Minion on the panel, where he focused on the dairy industry, citing the permitting process as a big challenge for milk producers. Jensen believes public relations efforts help alleviate consumer concerns.
“We’re getting to be two or three generations from the farm,” said Jensen. “We need to be proactive with relatives and others to educate them about how ag is done today. We need to tell our friends and families our stories. By doing this hopefully we are more proactive than reactive.”
Also speaking on the livestock panel was Tony Clayton, president of Missouri-based Clayton Agri-Marketing Inc., a U.S. export company dealing with the trade of live animals. Clayton talked about the future of animal exports.
“There’s a song by Brad Paisley that says, ‘Welcome to the future.’ The future of agriculture is here. The growing middle class means people want to eat better,” Clayton said. “People are looking at the livestock industry as Cadillacs. We do a good job in the U.S. of producing outstanding livestock. We’ve gotten better through research and technology. I believe in preparing for bad times during good times. We’re going to have to come up with a voluntary animal identification program to add value and find more markets for your feeder cattle. In many respects, prospects for export growth are promising. We see Russia as being a very good market for live cattle.” He also listed Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Mexico and Egypt as countries where U.S. beef exports are expected to grow.
Minion agreed with the importance of traceability not only for competitiveness overseas but also for animal health reasons. He said a shortage of veterinarians could also pose a problem.
“If we get a case of foot and mouth disease in the U.S., we will hurt with not having enough vets in the U.S.,” he said. “That’s scary. I worry about the future of veterinarians. Vet students come out of school with $200,000 student debt. Then, they move to a small community where ranchers call them to work the cattle once each year and to pull a calf that should have been pulled two days ago. It’s hard to make a living like that. I see veterinarians becoming more like consultants.”
Minion also warned attendees about the threat of activists.
“Activists are wanting to change things,” he said. “Soon, our rights to castrate and dehorn cattle will be taken away. The tactics animal rights activists use are shameless. The best we can do is not to make mistakes, and when we do, we have to admit it and correct it.”