New pigs delivered to the farm. My most popular video.
Recently, there have been a number of lawsuits filed in the state of North Carolina against Smithfield Foods. In fact, there are over 20 nuisance lawsuits against pig farms, waiting in the coffers. Three have already been through the court system and Smithfield has lost all three cases. The lawsuits are nuisance lawsuits filed by neighbors led by an out-of-state (Texas) lawyer. Too much noise, too much smell. It’s important to note that all the farms followed all rules/regulations. There have been no violations, but they still were sued. Their only offense? They were farming.
The last lawsuit awarded 6 neighbors over $470 million dollars, although the judge reduced it to 96 million. How generous. Trial lawyers typically receive about 1/3 of the award, and each of the neighbors will receive the remainder 60+ million. The bottom line you must ask, “Who do you want to raise your bacon?” Do you want farmers in the U.S. to raise the pigs or do you want to close farms down so we can buy our pork elsewhere? Because these lawsuits have real consequences – they shut farms down, which means no food is produced.
Let’s take a closer look at livestock agriculture and more specifically raising hogs. Fact #1 – Hogs do create manure. Fact #2 – Yes, it does stink. There is no denying that fact. I live on a farm with about 2200 head and there are a few days a year where I close my windows because of the odor. But most days during the spring/summer/fall, my windows are open. So what do we do about the odor? Not much at this point. I have heard there may be some technology coming down the road that may help with animal manure odor, which doesn’t surprise me because this is what we do in agriculture. See a problem, attempt to solve it.
But what really scares me about these lawsuits is where does it stop? I am afraid the new “Monsanto” (who is no longer) is “Smithfield.” It is so very easy to attack a mega corporation because it’s easier than attacking individual farmers. Yes, Smithfield is owned by the Chinese. It seems no one feels one bit guilty attacking a foreign-owned corporation. Family farms contract with Smithfield to raise hogs.
Working with a company like Smithfield has some attractive advantages. Farmers don’t have the cost of purchasing hogs, feeding them, dealing with a volatile market where there is no guarantee of a profit and no paycheck for six months (time to raise them to market weight). By working with a company like Smithfield, they are guaranteed a check every month. Farmers like it. Bankers like it. So even though people may be “yes, let’s stick it to Smithfield,’ they need to understand there are family farmers and employees directly impacted.
We need to stop suing farmers and our food supply. Now. Stop and think about what we are doing. It’s nothing short of eliminating our domestic food source. Are we ready for that? Do you think buying our pork from another country will be better? What country do you want to buy your pork from? Please put your country of choice in the comments below because I would love to know where you want to buy your pork from.
If you attack one state’s pig farms, why wouldn’t other farms in other states be next? Why wouldn’t it happen here in Minnesota? How about dairy, beef or poultry? Look at if from a trial lawyers point of view. It’s a huge windfall for them if you have the right players. All you need is to combine a greedy lawyer, some wagon-hopping environmentalists or some radical PETA supporters. That is the equation. There is nothing stopping them.
This should scare every. single. consumer.
As a farmer, what can we do?
We need to be political and we need to build community relationships. We all need to look at our state political processes to make sure what is happening in North Carolina doesn’t happen here. Thankfully, North Carolina has passed some legislation (with an override vote on the governor’s veto) that will help reel in future lawsuits.
Secondly, build community relationships. Here are some ideas farmers can do be involved in their local communities. Farmers need to get off the farm and build relationships within in their communities. I get it. It’s not easy. But we have to make it a priority. One of the more popular events agriculture is involved with locally are farm-to-table dinners. We literally have a dinner on a local farm and invite community leaders, business owners, medical professionals, other influencers and have conversations. We listen. We answer questions. I believe it’s harder to sue someone when you just shared dinner and wine with them.
Build relationships. Listen. Connect. Build trust.
Learning never stops for teachers. Especially for 40 teachers located from all areas of Minnesota. They embarked on a two-day ag tour visiting ag businesses and farms in southern Minnesota. The bus trip, sponsored by Minnesota Soybean and Minnesota Ag in the Classroom (program to increase ag literacy), was the first-ever educational tour where teachers could learn about agriculture and earn continuing education credits. They probably were a little apprehensive. Perhaps mixed with a bit of excitement. But no one doubted they came prepared to learn about agriculture in southern Minnesota.
So, let’s hop on the bus and get started!
Our first stop was AgCo located in Jackson, MN. All I knew about the company prior to the tour, was they manufactured farm machinery and equipment. When we arrived, we prepared ourselves for the two-hour tour with a short video. We all put on headphones/receivers (so we could hear the tour guide) and safety glasses. Our group was split into two groups and before you know it, we were off!
AgCo has several companies around the world. The facility we toured manufactures Massey-Ferguson tractors. And we got to observe a tractor, on an assembly line, assembled from start to finish. It was awesome! The company employs over 900 people and we were all blown away by how large the company is. And, oh, the technology. One of the first things our tour guide told us was how they use google glasses. That technology is crazy. Imagine wearing glasses and having documents and drawings show up in your glass lenses! That is just one example of the technology they use.
One of the takeaways for me was all the different types of jobs available. Learning a skill or trade is essential for companies like AgCo. These are quality jobs, good pay and good benefits. Its a great working environment–it was very clean. They truly take pride in their working environment.Continue Reading
Rural communities are like none other. And the community I live in is no exception. Yes, the nearest Target and Starbucks are an hour away, but life is much more than that. Four years ago, a grassroots group called Project 1590 (highway 15 and I-90) was started in Fairmont. Members of the core grassroots group wanted to enhance the vitality, livability and health of Fairmont/Martin County. The main question this group focused on was, “What can we do to make this area better for people already living here or for those that want to move here?” Project 1590 is instrumental in a number of community enhancements and one of the offshoots of this group is “From the Ground Up.” This group acknowledges the importance of agriculture within our community with the question, how do we celebrate our agriculture community?
And, From the Ground Up was born.
Our group focused on implementing an invitation only, farm-to-table event located on a working farm in the county. The first two years we focused on a hog farm due mostly to the high prevalence of hogs in our county. Our county sells over 2,000,000 hogs per year. This year, we focused on a crop farm with a “export market” theme. We truly live in a global world and our local agriculture is affected by export markets. The event is funded by sponsorships and is also used as a fundraiser where we split profits with our local FFA groups and the general Project 1590.