Livestock and Rural Communities

Imagine living next to an industrial “farm” that houses 10,000 hogs. And those hogs produce tens of millions of pounds of excrement a year. And that excrement is stored in giant lagoons, which are at risk of leaking into the groundwater or being breached by storms. Imagine the smell, so intense you can’t keep your windows open in the summertime, or sit on your porch. Clouds of flies day after day. This is reality for a lot of people in rural communities in the South and Midwest, particularly for low-income communities as well as for communities of color. People who didn’t choose to have an industrial livestock facility next door, and have very little power to do much about it.

In response, FERN produced a multi-part, multi-platform investigation into rural conflicts between large-scale animal production facilities and local communities. Although these farms (known as confined animal feeding operations, or CAFOs) are controversial in the environmental community, the perspective of rural residents who live among these facilities typically gets short shrift in the media and other high-profile venues. In reporting on the issue, however, we have found a number of concerns expressed through more obscure channels, from permit battles and protests to lawsuits and local hearings. This series explores these concerns as an issue of social and environmental injustice, one that merits examination of the role played by local political and regulatory authorities.

In this Series