• John Ikerd

Responses to CAFO Defenders Frequently Asked Question

Updated: Mar 4, 2019

Over the past several weeks I have posted blogs of my responses to some of the most common questions asked by defenders of CAFOs.

I have integrated all of my previous responses to the 20 questions below into a single document for those with a continuing interest in the CAFO controversy. Responses to 20 Questions Frequently Asked by Defenders of CAFOs.  


John Ikerd


1. Question:Farmers with CAFO are just trying to make a living. Why are you against farmers?


2. Question:It’s difficult for young people who want to farm to get a start today because of the large upfront investment in land, equipment, and such. Many farmers say that CAFOs are the only way their sons or daughters can continue the family’s farming tradition. Aren’t CAFOs at least a good way for young people to get started in farming?


3. Question:How can young farmers possibly make a living on a small farm by selling at farmers markets, producing organic vegetables, running a CSA, or pursuing any of these so-called viable alternatives to industrial agriculture?


4. Question:Even if farmers can make a living in a small farm, it would take a lot of work to farm the way they would have to farm to make enough money to support a family. Most young people these days don’t want to work that hard. How could you ever find enough young people who willing to farm to replace the animal products produced in CAFOs?


5. Question: People may not like the smell of CAFOs but they like their cheap bacon, ham, or fried chicken. If we didn’t have CAFOs wouldn’t the prices of meat, milk, and eggs be sky high?


6. Question: The global population is expected to continuing growing, at least through the middle of this century. Won’t we need CAFOs and other industrial food production systems to avoid massive hunger and starvation?


7. Question: With growing economies in densely populated countries such as China and India, the global demand for animal products will grow faster than global population. Won’t we need CAFOs at least to meet the growing demand for animal protein, if we are to avoid making grazing lands out of land reserved for wildlife, conservation, and recreation?


8. Question: The government is not supposed to “pick winners.” Government should let the markets work. Wouldn’t it be “social engineering” if the government had special environmental or public health regulations for CAFOs or if government programs support pasture-based, free range, or other alternatives to CAFOs?


9. Question: Aren’t most of the people in rural communities who oppose CAFOs actually people who recently have moved to the country and know nothing about real farming?


10. Question: Isn’t the opposition to CAFOs based mainly on inaccurate information spread by environmentalists and animal welfare groups who use their opposition to CAFOs to raise money? Wouldn’t you agree that decisions about agriculture should be based on “sound science?”


11. Question: Isn’t a lot of the public health research based on personal reporting of symptoms, such as respiratory and neurological problems, rather than well-designed scientific studies? Couldn’t these symptoms be irrational emotional reactions of people living near CAFOs rather than real health problems?


12. Question: If all of this scientific information is available, why does the controversy continue?


13. Question: Obviously, CAFOs are legal means of agricultural production. As long as CAFO operators don’t break any laws, shouldn’t they be allowed to operate without being harassed by their neighbors or other CAFO opponents?


14. Question: Some opponents of CAFOs just want to get rid of animal agriculture. Aren’t you really just trying to turn us all into vegans or vegetarians?


15. Question: Critics of CAFOs are always calling for more regulation, which would just mean more useless paperwork for farmers. Aren’t farmers already over-regulated; don’t they need less government interference in farming, rather than more?


16. Question: Most CAFO operators are at least required to develop manure management plans to protect the environment. Aren’t CAFO operators at least doing a better job of managing manure than traditional farmers who often produced animals in bare lots on hillsides draining into streams? Many even let their animals run in streams.


17. Question: The Iowa DNR has pointed out that the number of “impaired waters” is not a statistical indicator of water pollution. Isn’t it misleading to refer to the increased number of impairments as an indication of increased water pollution by CAFOs and industrial agriculture?


18. Question: Farmers have always known that animal manure is valuable fertilizer. Why would farmers with CAFOs waste money and risks polluting streams and groundwater by spreading more manure than their crops were able to use as fertilizer?


19. Question: Opponents of CAFOs seem to believe that CAFO operators mistreat their farm animals. Animals in CAFOs typically are raised indoors where they are protected from harsh weather and kept in a clean, climate controlled environment. Isn’t this a lot more humane than the previous practice of raising animals outside during harsh weather?


20. Question: CAFO operators have to keep their animals healthy so they will grow quickly and produce efficiently if they expect to make money. Don’t CAFO operators have an economic incentive to treat their animals humanely?


To see my responses to these 20 questions, go to: Responses to 20 Questions Frequently Asked by Defenders of CAFOs .  I may add questions to this list from time to time but do not plan to continue to blog about CAFOs in this particular format.


John Ikerd

© 2019 by John Ikerd All Rights Reserved

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