Animal Agriculture - Myths and Facts
Myth: Today's livestock barns, feedlots, and dairies are "Factory Farms" and are undesirable, inhumane facilities. Modern agricultural practices are environmentally damaging and animal waste will pollute ground and surface water. Manure will build up excess levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in the soil and, in general, destroy the environment.
Fact: "Factory farm" is simply a term coined by anti-animal agriculture activists to play on the emotions of the American public. It does not define a specific set of animal husbandry practices, or herd size. Be aware that activist groups use emotions and scare-tactics, instead of sound science, to further their arguments. In modern agriculture, animals are individually identified to make sure they get proper care, and to allow for the selection of the best breeding stock. Animals are grouped together by age and stage of growth to allow for proper nutrition.
Modern animal facilities are constructed to provide comfortable and healthy surroundings for the animals they shelter. If that were not the case, the animals would not prosper and the farmer would not succeed. Careful management ensures that livestock is handled in the most humane manner to provide the safest and healthiest environment possible.
Animal manure is valuable natural fertilizer, and is strictly regulated. Farmers apply correct amounts of fertilizer to their fields to help grow the best crops.
Myth: The North Dakota Department of Health doesn’t regulate animal feeding operations effectively.
Fact: The Environmental Protection Agency and the North Dakota Department of Health-Environmental Division closely regulate modern livestock farms. A rigorous permitting process and strict regulations guarantee that nutrients are applied properly.
Manure is applied at rates crops can use. Those rates are determined by soil and nutrient testing and potential production of crops planted, which are incorporated in a nutrient management plan or NMP. Farmers must keep extensive, accurate records of the nutrient content of the manure. Manure is not usually applied annually. It may be two or three years between applications to ensure that over-application of nutrients does not occur.
The Department of Health is diligent about making sure animal feeding operations(AFOs)do not compromise groundwater, surace water or air quality. Groundwater monitoring, odor measurements, soil profiling and establishment of setback distances are all designed to protect air quality, water quality and quality of life for the people living near an AFO.
North Dakota farmers and ranchers depend on the land and its resources for their livelihood. Our families live and work on their farms and ranches. Thus, they are aware that good stewardship is essential for their own welfare as well as future generations. Today’s farmers and ranchers are committed to controlling odors and protecting water resources.
Myth: Big corporations own large animal feeding operations to increase their profits at the expense of "family farms." The revenues leave our state.
Fact: In North Dakota, local farmers and ranchers and their families own virtually all the hog barns, dairies and feedlots. The inputs they buy and the services they use are also from the local area. Livestock farms add value to locally grown feed stocks and grains. The Gross Receipts Multiplier for all livestock is 4.49, which means that each dollar received from livestock sales in North Dakota turns over another 3.49 times. Increased economic activity from livestock helps local economies and rural populations prosper.
North Dakota agriculture must grow and expand just like any other business in order to remain competitive and viable. This principle is widely held by the North Dakota Legislature as they included language in the North Dakota Century Code to ensure that "A regulation or restriction may not prohibit or prevent the land or buildings for farming or ranching or any of the normal incidents of farming or ranching." The NDCC further states, "A regulation may not preclude the development of a concentrated animal feeding operation in the county. A regulation addressing the development of a concentrated animal feeding operation may set reasonable standards, based on the size of the operation, to govern its location."