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Noem: Big Pig CAFO Saves Family Farms, Makes America Safe

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.


  1. Rorschach 2013.05.06

    Now I know who she reminds me of. Sarah Palin. Like the 1/2 term governor, Rep. Noem is pretty good at stringing together words that sound good but don't make a lot of sense if you think about them.

  2. Rachel 2013.05.06

    I think the definition of Family Farm is what has folks crosswise on this topic. The Family Farm of yore with a couple of chickens, a barnful of pigs, and some milk cows is long gone. Most family farms these days are big corporations. Not that there is anything wrong with that, it's just a basic difference in definitions, I suspect. I, personally, like to work with the small-scale farmer, where I buy my steer and hog once a year, and get my veggies from my local CSA. But, that's not really supporting the new "family farm" by any means. So, if you want to keep today's farmers on the farm, Noem probably right, and I'm probably wrong.

  3. larry kurtz 2013.05.06

    Maybe Rep. Noem should run in the GOP gubernatorial primary.

  4. mike 2013.05.06

    She is the worst Representative we have ever had. I had voted Republican my entire life until 2012 when I voted against her. What a total joke.

  5. Charlie Johnson 2013.05.06

    Family farming is an economic term where the farm family provides most or all of the labor, mgt., and capital. It's not one or two out of the three economic machines but combines and coordinates all three. In no way, shape, or form does Jackrabbit Farms define any aspect of family farming. Notice, I didn't really specify size but family farming does define who provides the labor, mgt., and control of capital. The problem in animal agriculture began about 40 years when the owners of some livestock were no longer doing the chores. From a practical standpoint, I have a hard time believing that swine without access to fresh air or sunshine while confined to pens that are located on top or nearby lagoons of their excretion will provide a safe and high quality food product.

  6. Rorschach 2013.05.06

    When you read the links, it's clear that "Jackrabbit Family Farm" is not a family farm at all, but rather an investor owned business managed by an out-of-state company called Pipestone Systems. That's why Pipestone Systems CEO Dr. Minion and Chairman of the Board Mr. Spronk were here. It's only a family to the extent that "corporations are people."

    The gift of a pipestone pipe from Minnesota is a strange gift for a South Dakota "family farm" to give to a South Dakota congresswoman. Maybe in this case they should have given her a jackrabbit - live or stuffed. That would have made for an interesting presentation.

    But Noem's hesitation to say she would take it to DC may simply be because she already has one and doesn't need to display two of them at her office. If someone presented me with one, it probably wouldn't be as nice as the one I already have.

  7. bret clanton 2013.05.06

    Boy are we regressing. It used to cost a whole trunk full of beads......

  8. joelie hicks 2013.05.06

    So Rep. Noem caters to an out of state entity and shows a complete lack of respect for many of her constituents. How I hope she loses the 2014 primary. I am a registered republican, but with Republicans like her we really are not well served.

  9. Roger Elgersma 2013.05.06

    Dr. Spronk was my vet on my hog farm when he first got out of college. He always had very high standards even if he had to show you that you could do way better than you were accustomed to. That works well in any business no matter if you have a large business or small. Probably even works well in education. He also understood that if you apply very high standards to large numbers that you can do extreemely well. Five or ten years ago this hog farm group had 1400 family farms under contract and management advise and were one of the top five hog producing conglomerates in the US.
    This type of hog farrowing unit like they are putting up at Mt. Vernon can supply lots of small pigs to lots of family farms to grow up. This fits the crop farmer quite well since raising the babies takes the most work. They can feed out the pigs with little work which fits planting and harvesting schedules and also add value to their corn.
    I usually write from a more theoretical point of view and that is good in its own rite also. But this time I have practical experience and personal knowledge of the individuals at the top of this company. So take it for what it is worth.

  10. Douglas Wiken 2013.05.07

    Noem is protecting the supply of domestic hog manure. Her campaign might run short of it otherwise.

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