“Since Iowa Select Farms was founded in 1992, the state’s pig population has increased more than 50 percent — while the number of farms raising hogs has declined over 80 percent,” as Charlie Mitchell and Austin Frerick explain in FERN’s latest story, published with Vox. “In the last 30 years, 26,000 Iowa farms quit the long-standing tradition of raising pigs. As confinements replaced them, rural communities have continued to hollow out.”
Iowa Select, owned by Jeff Hansen, “employs more than 7,400 people, including contractors, and has built hundreds of confinement sheds in more than 50 of Iowa’s 99 counties. Since they began to arrive in the 1990s, these sheds have provoked controversy. Citing damage to health, livelihoods, property values, the environment, and the farm economy, rural communities in Iowa have campaigned fiercely against them.
“While their efforts have yielded small victories, they have lost the war: The state’s hog industry, led by Hansen, has cultivated close relationships with state politicians on both sides of the aisle to roll back regulations, and confinements have flooded the countryside. The Hansen family’s charitable efforts have seemingly solidified these ties; it’s not unusual for a sitting governor to attend a charity gala thrown by the Hansens.”