Getting the dirt on hogs 

Time for another "Hog Report," and today I'm reporting on hoggishness in the hog industry itself. Corporations are moving into pork production on a huge scale, and -- eieio! -- what a mess they're making.

First is the environmental mess. Unlike independent family farmers, who produce only the number of hogs that are in balance with the amount of land they have, corporate operators are jamming hundreds of thousands of porkers into massive factory facilities on small amounts of land. One result is a flood of hog waste that is contaminating our air and water.

In North Carolina, for example, corporate hog factories have caused almost a 300 percent increase in the number of hogs -- and the state is now awash in 38 billion pounds of feces and urine from these porkers. That's more waste than the city of Charlotte generates in 58 years! Of course, human sewage has to be treated, but the political power of the corporate operators has let their lagoons of hog waste go virtually unregulated ... and untreated.

The second mess being made is economic. The factory facilities are churning out such an oversupply of hogs that the price paid to independent farmers by the packing houses has plummeted to Depression-era levels. These farmers are getting $20 for an animal that cost more than $100 to produce -- so thousands of them are being squeezed out of business. The factory farms, however, can survive because they are being paid a much higher price by the packing houses. Why? Because the packing houses often own a good-sized chunk of the corporate hog operation, so in effect they're paying themselves while squeezing out the competition. Meanwhile, these monopolistic meatpackers are able to keep charging us consumers a high price for pork.

The bottom line is that hog factories are killing the independent farmer, holding up us consumers and polluting our environment. So ... who needs them?

Jim Hightower is an author, radio commentator, public speaker and political sparkplug from Austin, Texas. For more populist commentary, visit his website.

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