Press "Enter" to skip to content

Walt Bones, Educator? Try Secretary of Ag-Misinformation

Last updated on 2013.02.25

Agriculture Secretary Walt Bones is boosting the state's propaganda effort to force local governments into line with the state's "Get Big or Get Out" ag-industrial policy. For years, South Dakota has given preferential treatment to massive concentrated animal feeding operations. That policy has driven numerous small operators out of business, concentrating agricultural wealth and fostering resentment among West River agriculturalists.

Undaunted, Secretary Bones announces a marketing effort to get counties to back off on zoning regulations that hinder big livestock operations:

The South Dakota Department of Agriculture is going on the offensive to grow the livestock industry in the state. State Ag Secretary Walt Bones says counties need to become more livestock friendly. As a result his agency is working on a plan that will among many things improve the image of the industry among decision makers on county commissions and zoning boards.

Bones says they're focusing on four areas including improved communications, using the media to gain public trust in the livestock industry and increased education of decision makers ["SD Developing Comprehensive Livestock Marketing Plan," WNAX Radio, April 2012].

When Walt Bones talks about "education", he really means marketing. Secretary Bones has already been using (abusing?) his official position to persuade local boards to support the state's preferred CAFO clients. Earlier this month he surprised the Davison County Planning and Zoning Board by dropping in to urge them to approve the Jackrabbit Family Farms' proposed 5400-head sow facility south of Mount Vernon. (Davison County Commissioners, facing a packed house of opponents who like breathing and proponents last week, postponed a decision until May 1.) Secretary Bones also intervened in a Water Management Board hearing last summer on Michael Crinion's proposed mega-dairy in Hanson County (a process now sent back to square one by circuit court).

When Walt Bones talks about education, he also appears to be talking about spreading false information. In response to the Food and Drug Administration's call for voluntary restrictions on non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in livestock (a practice CAFOs can't live without but which causes serious public health concerns), CAFO operator Bones says limiting antibiotics is bad for agriculture:

He cites European agriculture as an example where restricting production methods has hurt livestock industries without resulting in a demonstrated reduction in drug-resistant bacteria.

"It has not been effective. It has not done what they wanted to do," Bones says. "Denmark used to be one of the leading pork producers with top genetics, top production. Their swine industry is just fading because of some of the production restraints put on them" [Peter Harriman, "FDA Calls for Voluntary Restrictions on Use of Antibiotics in Livestock," that Sioux Falls paper, 2012.04.11].

The Danes take exception to Secretary Bones's hogwash:

This is a blatant case of deliberate misinformation, unfortunately something we often experience in this area. Your readers need to know the following three facts:

1. Denmark is the biggest exporter of pork in the world; we only have 5 million human inhabitants, but through the efficient production of a population of 20 million pigs, we actually now export more pork than the U.S.

2. Danish pork production has increased dramatically since the ban of antibiotic growth promoters through more efficient animal management.

3. Denmark produces pork with — at average — eight times less antimicrobials per kilogram of pork produced than the U.S. (and most other big pork producers).

We hope this important debate in the U.S. can continue with sober — and truthful — information, also from good experience abroad. Denmark has learned much from the U.S. over the years, not the least in the veterinary area. For once we can give some good experience back — but only if the facts are reported truthfully [Jørgen Schlundt, "Letter: Denmark's Swine Industry Is Thriving," that Sioux Falls paper, 2012.04.17].

Secretary Bones can't get his facts straight about antibiotics and the global swine industry. We shouldn't trust him to "educate" local officials on livestock and zoning issues that directly affect their citizens.


  1. joelie hicks 2012.04.26

    Unfortunately, local officials often fall all over each other to accomodate these places. County Commissions hide behind the unelected zoning officials, who hide behind zoning laws that they recommended but the commissioners passed. One of the most important questions to ask someone running for a legislative office this year is if they support rural people being able to refer a zoning decision they don't like. To be referred at any time.

  2. Carter 2012.04.26

    Remember we were talking about economic despair yesterday, Cory? This is where it comes from. Financially promoting corporate farms over the small farmer. Small farms are incredibly important not only to the individual farmers (of which there are many), but also to the entire state.

    Corporate-run farms increase the prices of produce both because of lack of competition, and because of the high cost of chemically-altered Monsanto seeds.

    The same thing holds true for ranches. Small ranches benefit small ranchers, and benefit the local economies by providing more affordable meats.

    Not to mention, packing lots of animals in to a small area isn't exactly enjoyable, or even healthy, for the animals involved. But who cares about them when there's money to be made!

  3. Donald Pay 2012.04.26

    I've said it before. Most Republicans have a serious problem with shit addiction, a much more serious problem than the worst meth addicts. There must be some chemical in feces, some mix of pheromones mixed in with the campaign checks from corporate "agri-business" or sewage ash entrepreneurs that causes Republicans to lose their minds and relax laws and regulations to allow more and more of their favorite smelly product to pile high.

    Bones needs an intervention. Isn't there some shit sober Republican that can urge him to get help?

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.04.26

    Joelie, it's remarkable, given what you say about local officials already being strongly inclined to vote for CAFOs and Big Ag, that Sec. Bones feels the need to wage a propaganda campaign to swing any remaining recalcitrant (or, perhaps in Donald's terms, non-shit-addicted) county commissioners his way. Is he just overreacting to the Hanson County situation? What's got the bee in his bonnet? Is there some growing cabal of commissioners imposing environmental common sense on Big Ag?

    Carter: good connection! Nothing brings economic despair faster than taking away citizens' opportunities to be the captains of their own industry and having instead to become someone else's wage slave.

  5. commander 2012.04.26

    Wow like he is a good ag leader.

  6. Les 2012.04.26

    In the mid 80's a customer of mine had Sen Dorgan retrieve through the freedom of info act I believe, the USDA's plan to eliminate the family farmer. This paperwork I saw looked like it was initiated in the early 70's.

    I'm guessing it would be hard to fight city hall(Monsanto/USDA/FDA/$) as ag secretary. But then, when you really believe we couldn't feed the world without Monsanto, along with putting 1/3 of our corn into our gas tanks, so be it.

  7. Carter 2012.04.26

    Speaking of corn, please correct me if I'm wrong, but was corn shover not used in the past to make ethanol? How do we benefit from using the corn itself, when we can just use the inedible parts for fuel?

  8. John 2012.04.29

    Propaganda is a subset of marketing - courtesy of American Edward Bernays. Bones may or may not know Bernays but he certainly knows his propaganda.

Comments are closed.