President's message

...and six sows and a flock of Leghorns and...

Count me among those who, every once in awhile, long for the good ol' days! When veterinarians did veterinary medical stuff and went home to Mom and the kids. There were as many hogs then as there are now, just scattered out more. There were fewer people in the cities, and those that lived there still had relatives that farmed. Welfare was an idealistic concept, not a state, and in no way was the term applied to animals, particularly not the food variety. Environments were either cold or hot and better suited for dairy cows, hogs, or beef cattle. And you knew when you got up in the morning what to expect for the day (yes, I'm that old).

But that was then and this is now and never the twain shall meet.

The big city came to Shelby, Nebraska (pop 616) recently in the form of the Waterkeeper's Alliance with a little presentation co-sponsored by Nebraska's Center for Rural Affairs and the National Catholic Rural Life Conference. Fresh from their victory in North Carolina that saw a judge fail to dismiss their lawsuits against the largest producer in America, they turned their attention on the next most dangerous target...Farmtown, USA.

Unafraid to be on the streets after dark in Shelby, I walked the half block from where I sit now to the VFW, prepared to hear some environmental propaganda regarding the "megafarm" (4000-head nursery and 5500-head finishers) that is being built down the road a piece from Shelby and some local emotion about the demise of rural livability as a result. WRONG!

The Waterkeepers are slick, prepared, and highly emotional. They bring the first team, the same ones that went to court in North Carolina. Their film starts with the state of the Neuse River today, the ravages of Pfeisteria, the nitrogenization of the coastal watershed downstream. They move quickly to the hog industry -- hurricane footage with overflowing lagoons, drowned hogs, lagoons being pumped onto saturated fields near waterways. They bypass numerous salient facts about point sources of discharge, 100-year events, local agriculture evolution, urban sprawl as a nitrogen source. All serious and scientifically relevant.

Then they switched horses. Hammering on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations of all types, they show footage of the welfare issue recently brought to light in Oklahoma -- footage that had to come directly from the extremist animal rights group that commissioned it. They dwell on sow housing. They'd already had a USDA employee from Iowa share his study on perc rates from lagoons in that state. (Who's watching our government employees over there?) Then they jumped to sustainable agriculture and "organically grown", niche market production as the only real way to preserve our rural communities, our environment, our very being. Everybody gets a milk cow, four beef cows, six...

Then they all went back to the big city.

And this country boy sees anti-food-animal as the sole agenda. The vegans are there, in force. A new battlefront is drawn. They intend to do away with agriculture as we've been redesigning it. They're also deep in the anti-feed-grade-antibiotics-to-animals issue.

Has anyone got some shoats they want me to cut?

David Madsen