Before I even stepped from my truck onto the gravel outside the New Fashion Pork hog confinement facility, Emily Erickson, the company’s animal well-being and quality assurance manager, handed me a pair of stretchy white plastic footies to put over my shoes. It was a blustery day in September, the sky threatening snow—the first hint of winter, when cold, dry air stabilizes viruses and biosecurity becomes a topmost concern. Read more
If Iowa is considered the belly of the beast of industrial agriculture, then the Iowa state capitol is the part of the animal that drains the swamp. After all, Iowa is the place where Iowa legislators have made it possible to produce 11.3 hogs per person annually and created some of the most polluted rivers and streams contributing to the Dead Zone due to continued poor legislation and failed regulatory oversight.
Last year Iowa’s modern agricultural practices were made famous by legendary food safety violator Jack DeCoster, who is still in business after a 500-million egg recall due to salmonella that sickened more than 1,500 people in 23 states. This year Iowa’s state legislators are about to pass a bill that would make it illegal for anyone to take a photo of his “farms” or any other farm or field in Iowa. Even though some of the worst animal welfare abuses in U.S. history have taken place under the roofs of Jack DeCoster’s hundreds of industrial animal confinements, Iowa lawmakers are willing to offer immunity to offenders like him and penalize those who blow the whistle on those who would abuse animal livestock, i.e., our food. Read more
A lot of ink, airtime, and media megabytes are being used to cover the huge number of elections going on all around the nation right now. One of the most important is getting very little coverage, even though it affects every single person in my home state and indeed the US in very personal ways. It is the race for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture. Read more
As consumers scramble to check their egg cartons and federal officials investigate two Iowa farms at the center of a half-billion egg recall, it’s becoming clear that no one was overseeing egg safety in Iowa. Read more
ANKENY, IA — There are moments in a nation’s history that define it. For America’s remaining 2 million farmers (less than 1% of the population) and the more than 300 million eaters, the recent joint Department of Justice and Department of Agriculture workshop on lack of competition in the food and agricultural sectors held in Ankeny, Iowa is potentially one of those moments.
With concentration at record levels in agriculture today, well past levels that encourage or even allow fair prices or competition, the Obama administration’s call for public workshops is an historic event. While agribusiness continues to deny any problem, a simple look at the facts shows that the playing field for family farmers and American consumers is distorted beyond anything resembling a free or competitive market. Read more
Iowa experienced the flood of the century 15 years ago. That, of course, was a different century. Read more