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Veterinary Public Health
Section Newsletter
Fall 2003

131st Annual Meeting of the American Public Health Association-Program Highlights

There are many exciting general sessions at this year’s Annual Meeting, but we would like to call your attention to the following three:
  • President’s Session (3256.1) Monday, Nov. 17, 2:30 p.m.-4:00 p.m.
  • Critical Issues in Public Health (4088.1) Tuesday, Nov. 18, 10:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
  • APHA Closing Session (5190.0) Wednesday, Nov. 19, 4:30 p.m.-6:00 p.m.
Each session will include presentations on issues of great importance to the fulfillment of the public health mission in the 21st century by panels of outstanding experts. The panels are designed to provoke participants to view the future of their profession and to develop strategies for assuring public health effectiveness in the future.

Brief descriptions of these Sessions are provided below. For further information on the Sessions, go to
www.apha.org/meetings/sessions.

President’s Session

This session will focus on the challenges and opportunities facing public health in the 21st century. Topics to be discussed are: the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations on the future of public health practice and education; strategies to eliminate health disparities; mobilizing public support for universal health care; and a summary of the present state of public health as a “starting point” for the future.

Critical Issues in Public Health

This Session will further amplify the discussion of issues of central concern in the 21st century. The topics to be covered in this session are: new strategies to reduce the prevalence of substance abuse; approaches towards controlling the epidemic of obesity; strategies to reduce the high incidence of traffic accidents; and dealing with the threat of emerging zoonotic infections.

Closing General Session

For the first time, the Closing General Session will feature a panel discussion. Three areas of central concern to public health in the 21st century will be discussed. The topics to be covered are: the impact of the rapidly advancing science of genomics on public health; the threat of new and emerging infectious diseases; and the promise of technology in helping disabled people to overcome their physical limitations.

Moratorium on New Confined Animal Feeding Operations

APHA Statement regarding a “Moratorium on New Confined Animal Feeding Operations”

Response to the paragraph that reads:
“Whereas, increased numbers of CAFOs in an area often are associated with declines in local economic and social indicators (e.g., business purchases, infrastructure, property values, population, social cohesion), which undermine the socioeconomic and social foundations of community health, particularly in poor and African American rural communities; . . .”

Declining business purchases in rural American are hardly the fault of CAFOs. Business activities in rural communities have been declining since the advent of rural electrification and the tractor as fewer and fewer people are required to produce crops, meat, milk and eggs. The relevant question on this topic is “What would be the trend in rural business purchases over the long-term if the livestock industry was not allowed to remain competitive in the world market?” Modern pork production transforms roughly $60 worth of grain into market hogs worth $110-$120. In areas that raise more grain than is used locally, this grain is purchased locally and these purchases increase local prices because of reduced transportation costs. Those market hogs are transformed to pork products worth $250-$300 per head in packing and processing plants that are generally located in rural areas. Where would these rural areas be without these value-adding activities? Selling raw, bulk grain on the world market with the only added economic activity being the hauling and storing of that grain – activities whose costs are actually deducted from the world grain price to arrive at the local bids that farmers receive – is not conducive to vibrant local economies.

There are ample instances of positive economic development from the modern pork industry. Guymon, Oklahoma, and Princeton and Milan, Missouri, reversed long-term downtrends in their local economies by welcoming the modern pork industry. Canada’s Prairie Provinces have actively promoted the industry in an effort to add value to locally-produced grain and to revitalize struggling communities. St. Joseph, Missouri, and Albert Lea, Minnesota – two cities which lost packing plants and at least a portion of the related pork production enterprises in the 1990s – have actively tried to attract such businesses in the past few years. A comparison of “pig counties” and “pig-less counties” in North Carolina and Missouri shows clearly that the “pig counties” have gotten the better of it on nearly every measure of economic well-being (Cornfeld).

The aspersion that the modern pork industry preys upon the poor and upon African Americans is a case of the authors’ cleverly substituting causation and correlation. Any industry will look for geographic areas that are in need of economic development because such areas usually are the most welcoming and frequently have underemployed resources, including labor. The authors cite research papers on the so-called “environmental justice” of development in North Carolina and Mississippi, states that are generally poorer and more heavily populated by African Americans. Neither of these were reasons for pork industry development in those states. Development of the North Carolina pork industry was driven initially by the looming decline of the tobacco industry and subsequently by the overwhelming success that North Carolina producers enjoyed. It was a purposeful effort to provide an alternative to North Carolina producers and workers. Development of pork production in Mississippi was an effort to provide a consistent supply of hogs and lower transportation costs to a Mississippi packing plant in order to keep it open and thus maintain the employment of many rural residents, regardless of their economic status or the color of their skin. The real injustice would have been to block the development of the pork industry in these areas and thus leave these workers in poverty.

Property values near CAFOs are a topic that has received some recent attention by the research community. Recently-published research at Iowa State University (Herriges, et. al.) indeed suggest that residential real estate values are negatively impacted by the location of hog barns upwind of the property. In the five subject counties (some of which had very heavy hog population densities) property values were decreased by up to 11 and 8 percent if a single facility were located within one-quarter and one-half mile, respectively. However, these impacts are 3 percent or less when the separation distance is 1.5 miles or more. More importantly, the research found that large hog operations had a smaller impact than small and moderate-sized operations. This result is likely due to large operations being better-designed and –managed than older, smaller operations. Regardless of the reason, if you are selling residential property in these five counties, you appear to be better off if the hog operation near you is large.

Research at the University of Minnesota in 1996 (Taff, et. al.) found that rural residential real estate values increased when feedlots were located nearby. This effect was more pronounced for older, relatively low-priced homes located in small towns. These results suggest that the people who work in feedlots help to maintain rural residential housing and drive up their values by locating in rural communities.

Finally, little is known about the effect of CAFOs on the value of farmland. Properly managed swine operations produce a large amount of effective, low-cost fertilizer in the form of manure nutrients. The high water content of hog slurry, though, limits the distance over which it can be transported without incurring substantial costs. Tillable land near these units (especially that owned by the CAFO owners or contracted to be used for manure nutrient application) should be more valuable than other nearby land that has no access to these low-cost nutrients. Like the effect on residential property values, this effect should be larger closer to the CAFO. These are testable hypotheses that deserve attention soon.

Regardless of the study, the real answer is the same: Location, location, location. CAFOs do not have a unanimously negative effect on property values. They don’t even have a unanimously negative effect on residential property values. They can be located so as to have negligible negative effects while providing the positive economic effects of adding value to local grain and labor. Attention should be focused on where best to put these operations, not on a blanket prohibition of their construction.

References

Cornfeld, Richard S. “Environmental justice finding in CAFOs study questioned,” Feedstuffs, Volume 73, Issue 41. Miller Publishing Company, Minneapolis, MN. October 1 and 8, 2001.

Herriges, Joseph A., Silvia Secchi and Bruce A. Babcock, “Living with Hogs in Iowa: The Impact of Livestock Facilities on Rural Residential Property Values.” Working Paper 03-WP 342, Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, Iowa State University, Ames, IA. August 2003.

Taff, Steven J., Douglas Tiffany and Sanford Weisberg, “Measured Effects of Feedlots on Residential Property Values in Minnesota: A Report to the Legislature.” Staff Paper P96-12, Department of Applied Economics, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN. July 1996.

Food for Thought Regarding the APHA Draft Resolution Calling for a Moratorium on New Confined Animal Feeding Operations

I have had the opportunity to talk to many agriculture industry representatives and listened to presentations by EPA representatives at meetings this summer on the imminent implementation of new federal and state rules ‘on the books’ regarding concentrated animal feeding operations.

What I discovered is that my already limited and dated information regarding modern farming is worse than I thought!!! I also discovered that you can not ‘paint’ all industries and all regional practices with one brush. In the interest of public health and the prevention of disease, I think we should be explicit regarding the science supporting regulatory action and also apply risk/benefit principles to the decision making process.

That said, I offer below a commentary that I solicited regarding the proposed APHA Draft Resolution Calling for a Moratorium on New Confined Animal Feeding Operations. I will make available any other comments, observations, reclamas, etc that readers would like to share.

John Herbold
Chair, VPH SPIG

A Solicited Commentary

“This resolution contains numerous inaccuracies and portrays modern agriculture from an uninformed and biased viewpoint. Beginning with the title of the resolution the inaccuracies are apparent. Examples include:

  • The correct term in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. There is no definition for “Confined Animal Feeding Operations”. Operations below 1,000 animal units may keep animals in confinement. Since reference 3 cites EPA guidelines, the author’s bias in stating that CAFOs are commonly referred to as factory farms should be removed from the EPA citation.
  • In paragraph 1 the statement on farm size is misleading. While it is true the largest livestock producers may be getting larger, individual production sites owned by these largest producers are not. Thus, the larger producers may own more sites, but the sites they own have not increased substantially in size in the last few years.
  • Studies cited suggesting environmental injustices in the location of CAFOs are flawed. Indeed, one recently published paper found that large hog operations have a smaller impact on property values than small and moderate-sized operations. As with most building projects, site selection is an important consideration.
  • The figure of 575 billion pounds of animal manure generated per year attributed to CAFOs is inaccurate. That is the estimate of manure produced by all animal agriculture whether those animals are in CAFOs or not. The United States has produced approximately 100 million pigs per year for decades; there is likely little difference in the total amount of manure produced, it is just a matter of how the pigs are housed. In the past, there was no control on manure management, unlike the regulations governing today’s CAFOs. Manure from any source may contain products that could be a concern to human health, not only manure from animals kept in CAFOs. Indeed, smaller operations are not subject to the requirements for manure management that CAFOs are.
  • Manure is considered a valuable resource to farmers, and is often used in place of chemical fertilizers.
  • The new CAFO rules strictly regulate manure storage structures, and manure land application. These regulations further enhance the safety of ground and surface water. However, even prior to the new rule, very few structures have failed in comparison to the number of structures that exist.
  • The example cited of an outbreak of human illness due to animal manure was the tragic incident in Walkerton, Ontario. This was a tragic set of circumstances that led to human illness because of poor well siting, and failure of municipal water treatment. The farm implicated would not qualify as a CAFO, and was following environmental best management practices. It is, quite frankly, the type of farm that Dr. Wallinga’s group is trying to preserve.
  • Antibiotics are used in animals in all types of production systems. In pork production, age segregation in multiple sites has been designed to enhance swine health and productivity. There is evidence that animals kept in CAFOs are more likely to produce efficiently without the use of growth promoting antibiotics than those kept in continuous flow facilities.
Conclusion

The American Public Health Association should not support the proposed draft moratorium because the remedies provided by the new EPA CAFO rule are not considered by the resolution. Additionally, the area of regulation of CAFOs belongs in the hands of the Federal and State governments. If APHA determines that they wish to hold a position on the issue of CAFOs, they could consider supporting the seven strategic issues to resolve concerns associated with AFOs identified in the USDA and EPA Unified National Strategy for Animal Feeding Operations. Those strategies are:
  1. Fostering Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan development and implementation;
  2. Accelerating voluntary, incentive-based programs;
  3. Implementing and improving the existing regulatory program (this strategic issue is addressed by the new CAFA rule);
  4. Coordinating research, technical innovation, compliance assistance, and technology transfer;
  5. Encouraging industry leadership;
  6. Increasing data coordination; and
  7. Establishing better performance measures and greater accountability.