OPINION: Pig farmers portrayed inaccurately in debate
I'm proud to say that my husband and I are one of the approximately 25 pig farming families who call Davison County home. Most of you have probably met some of us at an event in Mitchell or the surrounding communities, or at least enjoyed one of the thousands of pork loin sandwiches we've served over the years at community events.
As family farmers, community service is just one of the "We Care" ethical principles that pig farmers uphold. We place importance in all the ethical principles, including producing safe food, protecting animal well-being, safeguarding the environment, providing safe working conditions for our employees, and protecting public health.
I am very proud of the community service that pig farmers in this county have been involved with, but I'm especially proud of the improvements we've made in the pork industry over the years. Farming, as well as every other industry, has changed over time. That change is sometimes feared because it is misunderstood.
The most notable change in the last 20-25 years is the great majority of hogs in the U.S. are now raised indoors. This change came about for a variety of reasons -- we can keep our animals comfortable through all weather extremes, we can keep our animals healthier because they no longer have access to other animals that may make them sick, and we have been able to meet consumer demand for leaner meat. Today it takes 35 percent less feed and water to produce a pound of pork than it did 50 years ago. This is a win-win in this age of "green" and "sustainability."
Farmers are the original recyclers, due to the practices we use in regard to handling manure. Manure is probably one of the most misunderstood and controversial issues surrounding animal agriculture, most likely because of the smell. Manure from all species of animals smells, but manure provides a valuable resource in fertilizer. Livestock producers have been using manure to fertilize crops since farming began. Using organic fertilizer reduces the use of petroleum-based fertilizer, which again is better for the environment.
The storage, transportation and application of manure from hogs to cropland as fertilizer is a safe process and is monitored by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Because the manure is mixed with topsoil when applied, there is little chance of runoff and there is zero runoff allowed from the barns themselves.
Today's farmers have become more efficient while also improving animal well-being and care of the land. As farmers, our main goal is food production. As the world population grows by 200,000 every day, the need to embrace new technology is vital. A sobering thought: If U.S. farmers still used farming techniques from 1950, there would be no food for the nine most populated states in this country.
The Davison County Board of Adjustment will make a decision soon regarding a new pig farm. Jackrabbit Family Farms LLC will be owned by a group of family farmers, some from the local area. There is a small group of people who have been very vocal in opposing this farm and have shared incorrect information. They don't realize that the decision on this particular farm could impact the chances for any livestock producer in Davison County (including themselves) to start up new ventures or even expand existing operations.
The Board of Adjustment has a record of being pro-agriculture, so I hope the board will put emotions aside and base its decision on the fact that Jackrabbit Family Farms LLC has met or exceeded all requirements for the permit.
To learn more about how pig farmers raise their animals, care for the environment and live all the other ethical principles on a daily basis, watch the videos at http://video.pork.org/.
Peggy Greenway, of rural Mitchell, has been a pork producer for 28 years. She is involved with the Davison County Pork Producers Council, the South Dakota Pork Producers Council, and agricultural promotions through Common Ground (women farmers connecting with women consumers).