The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

CAFO proposal dropped

Local farmers dropped their application for the construction of an industrial-scale Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) on Thursday, Feb. 20 in response to pressure from the community.

The application to build the CAFO large enough for 4800 hogs, which was submitted by Jansen Brothers Pork to the Jasper County Board of Supervisors, was dropped a day after an all-campus email was sent out by Vice President for Communications Jim Reische on behalf of Jackie Brown, director of the Grinnell-owned Conard Environmental Research Area (CERA) and a professor of biology, and Elizabeth Hill, CERA manager, warning students of a hazard to the Area. The CAFO was to be located one mile to the southwest of CERA.

A letter to the editor published in the Scarlet & Black last April voiced the concerns of Grinnell faculty and staff and drew attention to the issue of CAFOs possibly eroding the value of College-owned lands as a learning and research site.

The application by the Jansen Brothers marked the end of the latest period in Poweshiek County’s ongoing struggles with the local presence of CAFOs.

Student groups and neighborhood groups like Poweshiek CARES (Community Action to Restore Environmental Stewardship) work at the forefront of what they see as a struggle to protect the town from the dangers of CAFOs and to preserve a higher quality of life for residents. The College’s efforts in particular have been spearheaded by Brown and Hill, who felt a strong sense of reprieve upon hearing that the CAFO application had been withdrawn.

“My first feeling was one of relief,” Hill wrote in an email to the S&B. “[T]hen I felt a great sense of thanks: to the Jansen Brothers for withdrawing the application, to Poweshiek [CARES] for sending letters to our neighbors to spread the word, and to Grinnell College students, faculty, alumni, and staff who wrote emails to the Jasper County Board of Supervisors asking to protect CERA from this development.”

The memo also detailed various ways for students, staff and faculty to express their thoughts regarding CAFOs and suggestions describing whom to contact to have their voices heard.

“We know that the Jansen Brothers decided to withdraw the CAFO construction application due to ‘community concern,’” Hill wrote. “Grinnellians voiced their concern by filling up the inboxes of the Jasper County Board of Supervisors with impassioned pleas to protect CERA.”

Advocates against CAFOs insist that there is still much work to be done and many more conversations to be had regarding the impact on surrounding municipalities. Grinnellians in Poweshiek CARES work to communicate what they regard as the far-reaching and enduring effects that CAFOs have on public health, local communities and the natural environment.

“During the spring and summer, the predominantly southerly winds would have caused an odor plume from the CAFO to blow over CERA, potentially yielding it unusable by Grinnell College and visitors,” Hill wrote. “Students who use CERA for field work for courses, independent research, or through the Summer Restoration Assistant program would lose out on spending valuable time at our field station.”

While the Jansen Brothers have decided not to construct a CAFO, more applications will follow, which activists say will threaten the viability of the College in terms of recruiting and maintaining quality faculty, students and staff.

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