Editor’s Desk — America’s ‘most destructive’ species

Anthony DeNicola, standing outside the feral hog trap he invented, which help ensure the pigs can be humanely shot. Photograph by Sully Sullivan.

FERN released two stories recently which highlight our ongoing projects. The first, part of our biodiversity reporting project, “The battle to control America’s ‘most destructive’ species: feral pigs,” by Stephen R. Miller, was produced in collaboration with National Geographic. Wild pigs are causing an estimated $2.5 billion in damage every year.

As Miller explains, “The pigs plow through crops, tear up roads and infrastructure, spread disease, and elbow native species out of fragile marshes, riversides, grasslands, and forests. Many researchers consider them the most destructive invasive species on the planet.” The most popular method of eradication — hunting them for sport, even by helicopter — is actually leading populations to expand because hunting ranches bring the hogs into new areas, where they can escape and breed.

This story has been amazingly successful for us so far, through the massive reach of National Geographic; it was also was trending on Apple News the day of its release.

A community candlelight vigil in Livingston, California, last September honoring the workers who died of Covid-19 at a Foster Farms’ poultry processing plant. It has had repeated outbreaks of the disease. Photo by Andrew Kuhn/The Merced Sun-Star via AP.

In our second story, “A year later, food workers still experience waves of Covid-19,” Leah Douglas analyzes worker data on Covid-19 and finds that the pandemic kept flaring up at food- and meat-processing facilities. In her story, she identified 50 plants where the disease had returned after a brief absence, counting more than 6,700 worker cases and 22 worker deaths linked to these repeat outbreaks. Yet even these data are incomplete, she writes, because few states are reporting workplace outbreaks.

The story undercuts industry spin that food workers suffered from Covid-19 only in the initial months of the pandemic — and that voluntary company measures have been sufficient to keep the disease at bay.

Finally, I want to draw your attention to our Ag Insider news service, where we’re reporting on the current hunger crisis in the United States. Contributor Karina Piser has been covering these issues for us for several months, looking critically at what can be done to improve food access to people in need.

As always, we thank you for your continued support, without which this reporting would not be possible.