Factory farms, officially called Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), make the worst possible neighbors. People forced to live close to CAFOs often report becoming sick from toxic gases produced by decomposing animal waste. They can’t even enjoy their own backyards or open their windows on summer nights because the stench from CAFOs miles away is overwhelming. Residents near CAFOs also report an increase in pest infestations, including rodents and swarms of flies. Family and friends often refuse to visit because the smell is so unbearable.
But it’s much more than the intolerable smell that impacts rural communities. Manure run-off from CAFOs contaminates streams, rivers, and lakes that were once recreation centers and tourist destinations. Over-application of manure on fields near residences also causes their wells to become contaminated, threatening the health of anyone coming into contact with the water.
CAFOs take a tremendous economic toll on communities too. Property values plummet whenever a CAFO moves in. Some owners living near CAFOs have filed property tax appeals and won in court, demonstrating that their homes and properties lost significant value due to these industrial-scale facilities. All CAFOs entice communities with the promise of increased tax revenue, but the falling values of the properties surrounding CAFOs negate any promised increase.
Not only do communities lose income when CAFOs move in, they are also forced to increase expenditures on the development and maintenance of infrastructure, especially roads and bridges broken down by CAFO semi-truck traffic. Once a CAFO shuts down, communities are then left with depressed economies, low property values, and costly, often irreparable environmental damage.
Unlike traditional family farms, which purchase feed, supplies, and building materials from local suppliers, CAFOs typically purchase everything from outside of the region while paying their workers a very low wage. Because local residents are rarely willing to work for the dismal pay CAFOs offer, these facilities encourage low-wage workers to move into communities. Consequently, CAFOs provide little to no stimulus for local economies, while imposing prohibitive costs. Wherever CAFOs come in, family farms are driven out of business–and when family farms and the good jobs they provide disappear, rural main streets become ghost towns.
CAFOs are a resource extraction industry, draining the wealth from communities and leaving behind polluted water, foul air, broken roads, and sick residents. The only ones who benefit from CAFOs are their CEOs and corporate shareholders, whose pockets are lined with profits reaped from polluting the environment, paying workers unfair wages, treating animals inhumanely, and devastating rural economies.