CAFOs, family farms, and our unique way of life

The South Dakota Legislature has introduced three bills designed to chill citizens participation in local zoning decisions, make it easier for Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) to get approval from County Boards of Adjustment, and remove the Family Farm Act restrictions to corporate ownership of hog operations.

These bills reflect the state’s push to site more CAFOs in eastern South Dakota, a policy that plays loose and fast with our water, air, and quality of life. As the citizens of this state, we do not support these measures. Moreover, we do not support any measure that removes or makes more difficult citizen involvement in our government, whether it is through challenging decisions made by counties or by citizen initiative on a state-wide level.

We are asking the legislature to reject the following bills. Please click here to sign our open letter to stop these bills:

HB 1173 – Introduced by Representative Qualm (R-21) and Senator Cammack (R-29), this bill would penalize citizens appealing land zoning decisions seen as frivolous. Since courts already have the authority to award damages in frivolous or malicious suits (SDCL 15-17-51), this bills is clearly targeted at preventing citizens from challenging zoning decisions made in their county.

SB 127 – Introduced by Senator Rusch (R-17) and Representative Rasmussen (R-17), this bill would create an exemption to South Dakota law allowing non-family farm corporations to own and operate hog confinements in South Dakota.

HB 1201 – Introduced by Representative Mickelson (R-13) and Senator Cammack (R-29), this bill would reduce the number of votes needed on a county board of adjustment to allow a conditional use permit from 4 out of 5 to 3 out of 5, making it easier for CAFOs to get these permits and move forward. Dakota Rural Action supports family agriculture, and we believe community members should be encouraged to participate in decisions that will affect their water, air, and quality of life.

“These three bills are intended to increase the number of CAFOs, especially hog CAFOs run by outside corporations; lower the standards used by county boards in voting on conditional use permits for CAFOs; and deter citizens from exercising their already severely limited opportunities for recourse,” says Dakota Rural Action member and farmer Nancy Kirstein. “The result will be increasing pressure on the water supplies, increased pollution of water and air, decreased quantity and quality of resources for South Dakota farmers and residents, and degradation of the environment.”

Confined Animal Feeding Operations


  • Most of the environmental concerns come from the makeup and amount of manure produced by Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO).
    • Large farms can produce more waste than some U.S. cities.  For example a CAFO with 800,000 pigs could produce over 1.6 million tons of waste per year.  More than 1.5 times the annual sanitary waste production of the city of Philadelphia, PA. (1)
    • The contamination of both surface water and groundwater are concerns for citizens facing the siting of new CAFO’s.  These concerns should demand the stringent oversight of both federal and state agencies.  In 2005 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report finding two major flaws with the EPA’s efforts to regulate CAFO’s
      • allowing an estimated 60% of animal feeding operations to go unregulated.
      • A lack of federal oversight of state governments to insure they are adequately implementing required federal regulations for CAFO’s (2)


  • CAFO’s focus on short term economic gain for the few at the expense of long term gain for the community.  University of Missouri Professor Emeritus John Ikerd, says “There is no short run economic benefits for investing in healthy rural communities. … there is no short run economic benefits from protecting the natural environment.”(3)
  • Studies going back to 1978 have shown that the economic concentration of agricultural operations tends to remove a higher percentage of money from rural communities than communities where agriculture is in the hands of smaller farms. (4)

Developer’s Agenda

  • South Dakota Government and CAFO developers are pushing hard for the creation of new CAFO’s in eastern South Dakota.  These three bills are part of a larger body of work focused on the fast, short term economic gains these developments offer at the expense of the long term health of our state, our communities and our people.


1. Government Accountability Office , Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations: USEPA Needs More Information and a Clearly Defined Strategy to Protect Air and Water Quality from Pollutants of Concern, GAO-08-944, (Sept. 2008)

2. Government Accountability Office, Livestock Market Reporting: USDA has Taken Some Steps to Ensure Quality but Additional Efforts are Needed. GAO-06-202 (Dec. 2005)

3. Presentation at Annual Meeting of Jefferson County Farmers and Neighbors Inc. Fairield, IA October 7, 2009.

4. Goldschmidt W. 1978 Agribusiness and the rural community. In as You Sow: three Studies in the Social Consequence of Agribusiness.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: