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Letter to the editor: Take a closer look at business of CAFOs
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From John Hagen


To the editor:

At the present time our politicians are formulating regulations for concentrated animal feed operations (CAFOs) for our community. These enterprises are generally owned by large scale corporations and are not operated in the same way as traditional family farms we are familiar with. In order to arrive at a sound body of regulations we need to consider the way these big businesses operate.

The fundamental and overriding objective of a big business is to continuously produce ever increasing profits for the owner(s). Since the entire market for food production in the United States is fully developed there are a limited number of ways a corporation can expand its profits. The first method is based upon strategies for the expansion of market share.

Expansion of market share is accomplished by taking away from others. For example, let's consider the addition of a 6,000-head dairy operation to the system. Since the dimensions of the dairy market is essentially constant, it means that a number of small dairies will be forced out of business to provide the market space for the large industrial dairy. The loss of small farms occurs because the mega-dairy has the advantage of large scale. If we do the arithmetic, we find that for a 6,000-cow industrial dairy, it would require 100 small 60-cow dairies to go out of business.

The second way these industrial agribusinesses use to increase profits is by transferring as much of their expenses and liabilities on to others. One of the principal areas where this occurs is to transfer liabilities on to the local community.

Let's take a closer look at how the transfer works. If conditions arise that will produce unacceptable expenses or to cause profits to fall to low, the problem is usually dealt with simply by transferring as much of the company's assets to the owner(s) other business operations, declare bankruptcy and then walk away. The community is left to deal with the environmental, social, and health problems that are associated with these types of agribusinesses. The creditors and suppliers end up with a fraction of what is owed to them.

What can we do? We can act together: Many little voices can create a mighty roar that can't be ignored. Together we can motivate our politicians to act upon our behalf and avoid becoming victims of these predatory business operations.