hogs: Pigs on industrial farms are confined
to metal crates so small they cannot even turn around.
Unnatural conditions in the factory thwart a pig’s
natural instincts. Photo courtesy of Animal Welfare
OCTOBER 21, 2002: Hog Summit 2003 -- the
third summit in 3 years -- is heading for Pennsylvania. With
a variety of offerings, including research reports about factory
farming, workshops on alternative hog production, and activist
training, the Summit draws about 1,500 people from all over
the country. The date and location (late spring or early summer,
2003) will be announced soon by the lead sponsor, the Waterkeeper
Alliance, based at Pace University in White Plains, N.Y.
The Alliance provides leadership and resources for nearly
100 Waterkeeper-related organizations formed to protect specific
bodies of water (rives, bays, sounds, channels, coastal areas).
A Waterkeeper program advocates compliance with environmental
laws, responds to citizen complaints, identifies problems
which affect the program’s identified body of water
and devises appropriate remedies to address the problems.
For more on the Waterkeepers, check out their web site: http://www.waterkeeper.org
It focuses education and litigation campaigns in three areas,
including the impacts of factory hog farming. Its first two
hog summits, in North Carolina and Iowa, showcased the people,
problems and potential solutions involved with the host region’s
hog production systems.
Check out these two articles,
which will give you a sense of what took place
at previous summits:
Hog Summit: A press release about
the Clear Lake, Iowa summit, detailing speakers
and themes (AWI web site)
Hog Summit: A summary of what took
place at the New Bern, NC summit. (AWI web site)
Some background on the rise of Big Pork:
Industrial agriculture first came to dominate broiler and
turkey production in the1970s and ’80s, then moved into
hogs in the 1980s and ’90s. The approach is based on
a vertical integrator locking in a rigidly consistent supply
(in time, date and meat type) through contracted arrangements
with growers for specific growth phases.
The contractor typically specifies seedstock and feed, while
requiring the farmer-contractee to finance hog housing and
waste-management infrastructure in return for a guaranteed
market for each batch of hogs handled.
These Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) units
are subject to varying amounts of state and local regulation.
These standards exist because of various potential negative
impacts, especially a CAFO’s capacity to cause massive
pollution of surface and ground water if systems for managing
millions of gallons of waste fail or are overwhelmed by floods.
Impacts range from the local (odor, property values, worker
health/rights, water quality) to regional (loss of independent
markets, oversupply of hogs, reduced rural farming population,
and weakened farm business infrastructure). Larger CAFO owners
are frequently corporations who often have not been responsive
to those who bear the costs of these negative changes. Smaller
CAFOs may be farm families or family corporations whose owners
feel they must scale up the numbers and concentrate production
to remain economically viable.
Jeff Odefey, staff attorney for Waterkeepers Alliance and
part of the PIG Alliance, a Pennsylvania-based effort to support
sustainable hog production, is the point man for the 2003
Hog Summit. He explains the nature and intent of these high-profile
events to create long-term capacity to build community-based,
environmentally sound hog-production systems.
NewFarm.Org: What does Waterkeepers want to see happen
at the Pennsylvania Hog Summit?
Odefey: We would like to tailor the coming
event to meet the needs of the Pennsylvania activist and farming
communities. To do so, we will invite experts to provide relevant
information on CAFO related topics, e.g, the latest news on
the antibiotic resistance front, an update on the new EPA
CAFO regulations (to be released in January 2003) and Farm
Bill EQIP program, recent developments in pollution research
and legal strategies. We
will also offer sessions focused on building activist skills
and effectiveness, often building on the experiences of other
citizens/organizations from around the country.
For the Summit to be an effective tool, it cannot take place
in a vacuum. One of the main reasons for hosting it in Pennsylvania
is that the event fits in as a capacity building component
of an on-going, broadly based, and state-wide effort to oppose
the industrialization of pig production.
NewFarm.Org: What have been the good things to come
from the North Carolina (2001) and Iowa (2002) summits?
Odefey: One of the most positive outcomes
of the two previous summits has been the
increased coordination between activists, concerned citizens,
academics, and public interest groups. The summit provides
a much-needed forum for building relationships and connecting
with people or groups who can provide needed expertise or
Following the Iowa Summit, we were able to build partnerships
with local attorneys who then offered legal advice to farmers
and other Iowa residents affected by nearby CAFOs. We were
able to bring the valuable work of academic researchers to
a new audience, and we were able to highlight the successes
of "alternative" pig farming systems.
Really, though, I would argue that confinement is the real
"alternative" to good old sustainable methods.
NewFarm.Org: What is your approach to bringing CAFO
production to public accountability?
Odefey: Waterkeeper Alliance has a four-prong
strategy for confronting industrial
hog production and the pollution it causes.
First, we will bring lawsuits against polluting corporate
factory farms to force them to clean up their act and to bring
about operational changes throughout the industry. We
currently have Clean Water Act and RCRA suits pending against
facilities in North Carolina, with an expected trial next
fall, and have just filed challenges to North Carolina's general
NPDES permits for feedlots.
Secondly, we are actively engaged in developing consumer
education and action programs to spread the word about the
negative impacts of factory farming and the positive benefits
of buying from sustainable -- even local -- farmers.
Third, we strive to provide information and resources to
activists and concerned citizens. The summit is the largest
and most visible of our efforts towards this end.
And finally, we are very actively advocating for improved
CAFO regulations and policy, at both the national and state
levels. We have worked very hard, along with our coalition
partners in the Clean Water Network, to represent an environmental
perspective before the EPA as it develops the new CAFO regulations,
and are engaged in similar dialogues
with a number of states.
NewFarm.Org: Who are your partners for Hog Summit
Odefey: The previous summits enjoyed tremendous
support from the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), Niman Ranch,
and a collection of very effective local activist groups in
North Carolina and Iowa. We could not have succeeded without
their help. The coming year gives us another chance to work
with our long-time partners, such as AWI and GRACE, and to
develop new friendships. Waterkeeper is honored to have as
co-sponsors the PIG Alliance, PennFuture and the Pennsylvania
Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA).