We are your neighbors
As a resident of Dickinson County, I am growing increasingly concerned about agricultural activities taking place here.
I keep reading editorials about farmers. Their contributions to the community from a financial aspect in terms of local wages ($120.4 million according to the 2012 Farm Census, employing 15.9 percent of Dickinson County's active labor force) or property tax contributions on the 187,363 acres of farm ground seem to be overshadowed by the fermented smell of politics and activism.
The actual editorial pieces are campaigning against manure management and hog farming, citing New Fashion Pork as the primary aggressor. This is particularly distressing, since I am both a resident of Dickinson County and an employee of New Fashion Pork.
Declining property values, polluted waterways and lost business revenues from being downwind of the “factory farms” have all been bulleted points that claim that animal agriculture, NFP specifically, is negatively impacting the economy and ecology in Dickinson County.
The real Manure Management Plan is getting to the truth behind these letters. Specifically, I would like to address the July 3, 2017, letter by one Mike Miller.
To correct the outright falsities:
• New Fashion Pork produced 1.4 million pigs last year, not 6 million.
• New Fashion Pork doesn't have a facility anywhere near St. Louis. NFP is part of a farmers cooperative that owns a processing facility in St. Joseph, Missouri.
• There is no such thing as a small farmer's exemption in Iowa. Regulations are based on the number of animals, not the size of the farming operation.
• New Fashion Pork is not required by law to notify anyone of those facilities based on the barn's size. But as residents of the area (born and raised and residing Jackson, Minnesota — 18 miles away from here — not quite the out-of-state conglomerates Mr. Miller claims), they were transparent with county officials, residents and elected state officials about their plans.
• A petition was circulated through the county, but no such thing as a moratorium ever passed against hog farming or NFP. NFP voluntarily withdrew plans to build a barn here in 2015.
• It is a nursery site, not a farrowing house.
The hyperbole is frankly overblown. His choice of language bespeaks of misinformation and fear, rather than knowledge of the farming industry.
That is what concerns me the most about the letters: the fear-mongering tones. Less than 2 percent of Americans are involved in farming. The average farmer feeds 155 people. So I can forgive Mr. Miller for not knowing the difference between a nursery and a farrowing house. But what I cannot look past is the outright lies about the intent of New Fashion Pork's purpose within this area.
New Fashion Pork was started by Dr. Brad and Meg Freking. Brad and Meg grew up on farms in Jackson, Minnesota. After college, Brad purchased his childhood family hog farm in Jackson County, and as a portrait of the American Dream over 20 years, they built a business that now supports 400 families.
Not only did they build a business here, they raised their boys in Jackson. They spend their weekends on Big Spirit or Okoboji Lake. For the Fourth of July, they sat on West Boji with their family, battling mosquitos and rain to see the fireworks show.
That is what I cannot seem to rationalize: the disconnect the activists writing these letters have about our role in the community. We live here. We work here. We send our kids to school here. We fish in the lake and drink the tap water. We pay taxes, contribute to charity, vote, sit next to you at the patio of local restaurants or in church. We are not some far flung corporate giant, carelessly usurping local resources. This is our home. We are stewards of this land. We are your neighbors.
At some point the madness must stop. Dickinson County, this is Iowa. This is not the streets of some metropolitan city where it is vogue to look down on a rural lifestyle. This is America's bread basket. Are we truly, as Iowans, going to let cultural misconceptions about farming, outright lies by activists near and far, impugn part of the lifeblood of this region?
We all must eat every day, and every time we sit down to a meal that we didn't grow with our own two hands; we should thank the cook and then thank the farmer and be thankful we live in a time and place where food is safe and abundant and where the farmer is also a conservationist.
I do not stand behind the propaganda machine that has become the Dickinson County political community. I am disappointed that here in America's heartland we have become so negligent of the truth. As a result, I humbly invite any of my neighbors to join us for an open house (press release to follow) where we will walk through the science of hog farming. I welcome the opportunity to get to know you personally, to teach you more about where your bacon comes from and to put to rest any fears you have about our livelihood might impact your lifestyle.
Dr. Kyle Coble
Animal Nutritionist, New Fashion Pork
Dickinson County resident