Defending Farmers

Published April 14, 2004

Dear Editor:

I read with great attention the article on hog farms (“Factory farm foes fed up; Sick of the foul odors and government inaction, critics of huge swine operations are taking complaints to court,” News, March 24). As a suburbanite who has worked directly with farmers and ranchers for the past nine years, I can assure you that the “hog hell” stories are the exception–not the rule.

As a senior economist for the American Farm Bureau, it was my pleasure to rub shoulders with the best farmers that our nation has to offer.

Each had the best interests of his farm at heart, including its animals.

As an economist, I’ve learned the following lesson concerning this industry: Consolidation and vertical integration are major trends in the pork industry because they enable the industry to attract new capital, boost productivity and achieve better (not worse) quality control. These organizational changes benefit packers, producers and consumers.

Focusing attention on some bad actors is good if the goal is to get them to improve their behavior.

But the pork industry is an industry on the move, generally in beneficial directions; we shouldn’t let a few horror stories stop this positive progress.

John Skorburg
Winfield, Illinois

John Skorburg is managing editor of Budget and Tax News, a publication of The Heartland Institute.