Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Follow-up comments on our 4/14 panel discussion

I wanted to make a few comments about our great panel discussion on April 14, Beyond Factory Farming, moderated by Lyle Muller from the Gazette.

Panelists were Jason Grimm, Food System Planner for Iowa Valley Resource Conservation & Development; Elizabeth Burns-Thompson, a Drake law student focusing on agricultural law; and Jason Russell, a Prairieburg hog farmer and speaker with the Iowa Farm Bureau.

The panelists did a wonderful job, and I'd like to send a shout out to each of them for their excellent comments. I appreciated that they had all taken time to read Righteous Porkchop, our book selection, and could comment directly about things Hahn Niman says in the book. They were all well-prepared and responded intelligently both to questions from Muller and from the audience.

Because I came expecting to oppose Jason Russell, I would like especially note that he did a fabulous job. He was articulate about his own farming operation and operating a confinement facility. And he made a few comments that stuck with me: their hogs don't get antibiotics throughout their lives, basically only when they are young -- sounded sort of like human infant vaccinations -- and then if they are ill or have problems. They don't have manure lagoons. You would never apply manure to saturated soil or in the rain, that would be crazy. They try to keep their manure cleaned up and protected from the weather so it can be as dry as possible when applied. Manure is like gold; they do not have to purchase any fertilizers because they use their manure -- appropriately -- on their crop fields. He says his facility does not have odor problems -- and there were neighbors of his in the audience who corroborated this. He talked about sows and their propensity for either cannibalizing their piglets or simply crushing them by lying on them, and that the sows are crated to protect the piglets.

There were lots of good audience questions, no heckling, and Muller had to call it quits while many hands were still raised. The panelists did not come off as being on opposing sides of an argument at all; they agreed on lots of things. Overall, I left the program glad for a little balance and realizing that, as with most issues, it's good to remember there is a lot of gray area and industrial farming is not as black-and-white as Niman paints it.

I am looking forward now to meeting Niman and to hearing what she has to say when she visits on May 11! We hope many of you will join us at The Hotel @ Kirkwood, 7 p.m. on 5/11, to hear her. It will be an interesting night.

And, not to suggest Niman's not enough of a draw -- but if you come, you'll be entered in a drawing for one of two color Nook ereaders AND you'll have a chance that evening to win one of three $50 Barnes & Noble gift cards! Meet famous author, win prizes, pay nothing. What's not to like?

No comments:

Post a Comment