This report reminds me of an essay in Wednesday's NY Times in which Nicholas Kristof indicts the absurdity of a federal agriculture policy that pays him, an East Coast liberal journalist, $588 a year to not grow crops on land he owns in Oregon. Kristof also puts big factory farm feedlots in a perspective I hadn't previously considered:
Modern confinement operations are less like farms than like meat assembly lines. They are dazzlingly efficient in some ways, but they use vast amounts of grain, as well as low-level antibiotics to reduce infections — and the result is a public health threat from antibiotic-resistant infections.
An industrial farm with 5,000 hogs produces as much waste as a town with 20,000 people. But while the town is required to have a sewage system, the industrial farm isn’t.
“They look profitable because we’re paying for their wastes,” notes Robert P. Martin, executive director of the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production. “And then there’s the cost of antibiotic resistance to the economy as a whole" [Nicholas D. Kristof, "Obama's 'Secretary of Food'?" New York Times, 2008.12.10].
As Kristof notes, farmers—real farmers—are not the problem. Big corporations and industry lobbyists are. Let's put some common sense back in farm policy and make the ag-industrial complex follow the rules (environmental and economic) that everyone else has to.