Last summer, Governor Dennis Daugaard expressed concern that the 21 vaccinated and screened child refugees placed in South Dakota posed a health risk to our fair state. Governor Daugaard should have been more concerned about the health risk posed by local yokels not getting their shots. Thanks to the vaccination paranoia promoted by certain members of the Governor's party, such shot-resistors have brought South Dakota its first measles outbreak since 1997:

According to health officials, the six people that have been diagnosed with the virus are in Davison County, and are made up of three adults and three children. The children range from under the age of five all the way to teenagers.

Health officials say they are all part of an extended family that came together for a holiday celebration. None of them are vaccinated against the measles.

...Several other people are showing symptoms and are being closely monitored. The state is also in contact with about 50 other people who may have been exposed to the virus [Rachel Skytta, "Six Confirmed Cases of Measles in SD," KDLT-TV, 2014.12.31].

South Dakota actually leads its federal Health and Human Services region in MMR vaccination rates at 93.1%. The national rate is 91.1%. Our neighbors in Minnesota are only at 90.8%. (Michele Bachmann is apparently infectious.) Think of those numbers this way: if one of those infected Davison County anti-vacciners walked through the food court at the Mall of America and sneezed a few times, he could have infected one out of eleven people.

The state Department of Health says measles causes brain damage in one out of a thousand cases and death in three out of a thousand cases. SDDoH says measles is highly contagious and can spread by direct contact or by airborne droplets. It is thus less deadly but more contagious than Ebola, which had Senator John Thune calling for a big-government travel ban to prevent the remote possibility of that disease spreading. Fellow blogger Larry Kurtz wonders why Thune is not now calling for a travel ban on Mitchell, but that wondering expects of our Senator logic and consistency, things to which Republicans have developed a strong herd immunity.

The Affordable Care Act has required insurance companies to cover vaccines for four years. The measly Davison County family could have taken advantage of their health plan to get their shots at no additional costs. Instead, they've chosen to become a hazard to people with allergies or compromised immune systems (like kids with leukemia undergoing chemotherapy) who cannot get the MMR shot.

Vaccination rates have been declining nationwide based on no solid scientific evidence of vaccine harms. At the same time, outbreaks of measles and other diseases for which we have vaccines are rising. We can go back to the bad old days when nearly everyone got measles, or we can knock off the vaccine paranoia and get our shots.

And for now, put off that trip to the Corn Palace.

Related Reading: Alas, I'm probably just making matters worse: recent research shows that public health messages promoting vaccines and efforts to debunk anti-vaccine myths only strengthen parents' resolve not to vaccinate their kids. There's just no communicating with some people. Might as well ship them to the FEMA camps....


Jackrabbit Farms, a new 5000-head hog farm south of Mount Vernon, is making a stink:

Neighbor Lyle Reimnitz said company representatives told him before construction that the facility would smell less than 2 percent of the time, and that hasn't been the case.

"I'm going to have to live there. I don't plan on dying any time today," Reimnitz said. "And I will not live with that stench in my yard."

Barry Kerkaert, a veterinarian with facility manager Pipestone System, said officials never promised that Jackrabbit Farms would be odor-free. Pipestone attorney Sean Simpson said the company has done what the county and neighbors have asked, including spending $30,000 on biofilters.

"What I suspect is that we're in a position where we'll never fully satisfy the neighbors of the smell," Simpson said. "Until there's scientific data supporting some of this, we're not just going to spend money every month or year to try to meet these unreasonable requests" ["South Dakota Hog Farm, Neighbors Battle over Smell," AP via Rapid City Journal, 2014.08.14].

Yes, because it's unreasonable to expect a business to live up to its claims and not make life unbearable for its neighbors.

You know, all those service jobs toward which South Dakota's economy is shifting don't emit nearly as many noxious fumes. Maybe instead of expending resources to promote polluting mega-dairies and help counties identify sites for giant, smelly concentrated animal feeding operations like Jackrabbit Farms, the state should consider helping counties attract businesses with less noxious impact on air and water.

By the way, Davison County neighbors, recall that Rep. Kristi Noem showed up at the Jackrabbit Family Farms' opening last year to say the hog lot would be great for family farms and national security. It would be nice if she would as eagerly drop by neighboring houses when the breeze carrying the stench of 5000 pigs' worth of poop imprisons neighbors in their homes. Neighbors, you can extend that invitation to Noem at DakotaFest next week on Tuesday, August 19.

Noem is touring nearby towns already, but she wants to hear about people's frustration with government, not people's frustration with corporations.


Rep. Kristi Noem showed up to cheer Big Ag in Davison County Friday. The new "Jackrabbit Family Farm" has no rabbits, and it's not a family farm: it's a corporate factory farm that will house 5,000 sows pumping out 125,000 piglets and $200,000 worth of manure each year.

Rep. Noem thinks that's just great:

Congresswoman Kristi Noem, R-S.D., told farm families gathered Friday at a new swine facility south of Mount Vernon that such production units are a shot in the arm for family farming in South Dakota.

Such production facilities, Noem told her audience, will keep families on the state’s farms and will continue providing for the nation’s food supply [Ross Dolan, "5000-Sow Operation Set to Open Soon near Mount Vernon," Mitchell Daily Republic, 2013.05.04].

Help me out, farm economists. How does a factory farm make it easier for smaller independent farms to stay in business? Perhaps piglets are costly to raise, and having one CAFO handle birthing the little squealers makes the whole process more efficient. But if some smaller farm in Davison County is making money raising pigs from birth to bacon, doesn't the economy of scale the Jackrabbit CAFO will introduce force those farmers to either do business with Jackrabbit to stay competitive or go under? How does this concentration of wealth and power in the local market support the independence and viability of small local producers?

Rep. Noem can't answer that; she's too busy saving America with Big Ag:

“For me food has always been a national security issue,” Noem said. “There is a reason we have a farm bill and a reason we have farm policy, and that’s because we decide that it’s important in America that we grow our own food.

“The instant that another country supplies us with our food is the day that they control us” [Dolan, 2013.05.04].

Once again, Rep. Noem invokes national security to make her favored capitalists unassailable. She also speaks from somewhere south of honesty. China, Japan, Mexico, the European Union, and everybody else bought $145 billion in food and agricultural exports from us last year, and I don't think we control any of them.

Plus, we're already well past the instant where another country supplies us with our food. In 2012, the United States imported over 62 million metric tons of food worth a record $105 billion, including $16 billion in seafood, $13 billion in fruit, $11 billion in assorted edibles, and $11 billion in beverages. Noem's assertion that we grow our own food and to avoid international control is economically and geopolitically naïve.

Conceptually it also contradicts her assertion about the good the Jackrabbit CAFO will do for family farms. If getting supplies from another economic entity gives that entity control, then won't the local farms who buy piglets from Jackrabbit be submitting to Jackrabbit's control? Which is it, Kristi?

Dolan concludes his story of Noem's bumbling Big-Ag mouthpiecery with this burst of absurdity:

[Pipestone System CEO Luke] Minion presented Noem with a peace pipe as a memento of her visit. American Indians have traditionally mined pipe materials in the Pipestone area.

Asked if she will take the pipe to Washington, she said, “We’ll see what we can do. We can sure use some peace” [Dolan, 2013.05.04].

Rep. Noem gets a present, and she has to "see what we can do" about bringing it back to her Washington office? What, are peace pipes on the TSA terrorist-weapon list? (No, they're not—just don't try to light the pipe in flight!) Can Rep. Noem not give a straight answer to anything? Or was she just discombobulated by the strangeness of a very white dude co-opting a sacred Indian ceremonial object as a cheap political gift? White industrialists handing out Indian peace pipes makes about as much sense as claiming pig poop doesn't stink.


Support Your Local Blogger!

  • Click the Tip Jar to send your donation to the Madville Times via PayPal, and support local alternative news and commentary!

South Dakota Political Blogs

Greater SD Blogosphere

SD Mostly Political Mix

Greater SD Blogosphere

Madville Monthly