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Our Views

Our Views Columns

Date: 2/28/2013

Title: How Federal Actions Hurt Family Farmers

By Chuck Folken, Owner/Operator, Folken Feed Yards

As a cattle feeder from Nebraska I have been well-versed for more than 20 years on Clean Water Act regulations. I take great pride in the practices I’ve put in place to protect the environment, as well as the fact that what I do everyday helps feed my family and yours. What discourages me is the constant berating beef feedlots like mine must endure by environmental organizations who know little to nothing about my farm or rural America in general

Being a family farmer means I work - a lot. Farming is a 24/7/365 job, which means that I don’t have much downtime, including time to cruise the internet. Which is why I was shocked to learn last week that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had acquiesced to pressure from environmental groups such as Earth Justice, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Pew Charitable Trusts to provide them with very personal information on livestock farms, including my own. The information provided to these groups is so detailed, that in some cases provides telephone numbers and names of deceased relatives.

What I can tell you is that this action jeopardizes the food supply in this country and around the world. Furthermore, it actually hurts the global environment. The United States is the world’s most efficient and environmentally friendly beef producing country. Actions that push production of beef to other countries with less efficient and environmentally sound practices are a detriment to the overall environment.

The NRDC in a blog post about the release of personal information by EPA called cattle ranches and Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) “industrial” operations. This just is not true; 95 percent of the feedlots in America are still classified as small operations, smaller than mine, even, and all are run by families like mine. My family-owned and operated cattle feedyard in Nebraska consists of twelve employees, including my wife, son and his wife. Categorizing my farm as “industrial livestock” is harsh and inaccurate. My family and I work side by side, day in and day out, feeding cattle, cleaning pens and managing our manure, just to mention a few responsibilities. We utilize modern technology to make sure we are producing safe, nutritious and environmentally friendly beef for consumers. 

NRDC also said it’s imperative that EPA get this data so my neighbors will know that my farm is there. This one made me laugh. My neighbors know me, know where I live, go to church with me, sit on local community boards with me and our children attend school together. Believe me, they know me and my operation. I don’t think a national database and map placed on EPA’s or NRDC’s websites is going to provide them with anything they don’t already know and couldn’t talk to me about themselves.

The truth is NRDC and environmental groups like them aren’t concerned about my neighbors. If they were then they would let local and state authorities do their job in addressing any issues that are presented to them. It is our local and state authorities that have primary regulatory authority over my beef operation and guess what? They already know where I am too. Instead they want my information and the information of all other family farmers because they want to systematically make it harder and harder to produce high quality, affordable beef to feed the world. These groups simply don’t like that I have cattle in a feedlot, even if all the organic manure produced is used as fertilizer for locally grown crops such as corn. So let’s just be honest with the American public that the reality of actions like the one taken by EPA endangers my family, my way of life, our nation and the environment.