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Letter: Modern hog farms far different from 1950s

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Note: The statements, views, and opinions contained in this letter to the editor are those of the author and are not endorsed by, nor do they necessarily reflect, the opinions of The Republic.

From: James Staffod


When a car company redesigns its flagship sedan, no one takes to the streets with picket signs. The 2014 model may look a little different than the 2013 model and completely different than the 1950 model, but we go to the dealer and trade cars anyway.

We recognize it as progress. Modern cars are better designed and more stringently regulated than the cars of the past. We know the 2014 model will be more efficient, safer and more environmentally friendly than the model from 1950.


Just like the automobile industry, agriculture has made a lot of progress since 1950, for good reason. The U.S. population has doubled since that time, and we have fewer than half the total number of farms we had back then.

Farmers have to produce more food on fewer farms for more people, and they have to continuously find ways to be better stewards of their land if they hope to continue producing that food.

To meet these goals, the “2014 model” of a pork farm is a big change from past models, but just like with cars, the newer version is more efficient, safer and more environmentally friendly. More hogs on fewer sites means less of an environmental footprint. Since 1948, U.S. meat production has increased by 700 percent while total manure volume has decreased by 25 percent. The manure is gathered and contained much more safely than ever before and is used as an organic fertilizer to help our other crops grow, thus reducing the need for the manufacture of petroleum-based commercial fertilizer.

As a testament to this efficiency at the local level, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management crunched some numbers in 2009 that revealed that regulated livestock operations in Bartholomew County need only 0.7 percent of its cropland acres to accommodate the land application of that manure at proper agronomic rates. The amounts of this fertilizer we use on cropland are regulated even more stringently than commercial fertilizers to ensure they are applied in a manner that is safe for the environment.

The growth of business is essential to the vitality of a rural community. Whether it’s a new car dealership opening in your town or a large livestock operation opening in your township, we urge you to talk to the owners to hear directly from them about their values, their principles, their commitment to your community, their passion for what they do, and their plans to ensure their operation is aligned with those values.

Progress in any business is scary only if the person responsible for that progress fails to educate the rest of the community on the “what,” “how” and “why” of what he or she does. Farmers welcome the conversation.

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