An Iowa State University professor has released a new study which analyzes counties in Iowa which have seen an increase in the number of hogs raised in large-scale livestock confinements during the 1990s. I.S.U. researcher Jan Flora says there’s been no spin-off economic development in those counties. He also found an increase in the number of adults who lack a high school education in counties which had an increase in hog production.
"It means that either there are some folks coming in without high school educations into the counties, or people with high school educations are leaving," Flora says. Flora’s study concludes counties which have high levels of hog confinements saw a decrease in the number of households considered living below the poverty level, but no measurable increase in property values. Flora says there was a decline in the prices of homes sold in counties where large-scale livestock operations, which he calls CAFOs expanded.
"So this could be due to a decline in housing prices for those houses that were near CAFOs and a disproportionate sale of those houses within, say, about a mile of the CAFO," Flora says. Flora’s report, written with the help of three other researchers, was financed by the Iowa Policy Project. Spence Parkinson of the Iowa Farm Bureau finds fault with the study, suggesting the authors may have an agenda.
"Whenever you look at a report like this, you tend to look at the authors just to get an idea of where they’re coming from and in this case you have two sociologists and two organic farmers," Parkinson says. Parkinson has thumbed through the study and he says there’s a lack of data to back up some of their claims.
"When you see a report that makes certain conclusions like this, you’d expect to find tables that are within the research that would explain," he says. The Farm Bureau, according to Parkinson, strongly disagrees with the report’s basic conclusion that large-scale livestock confinements do not economically benefit the regions in which they’re located.