Welcome New Ideas & New Business to Make North Iowa Prosper!

The last couple of blogs I’ve written have mentioned a processing plant being proposed in Mason City, a small city 45 miles north of my farm. Today I’ve decided to address this issue head on as earlier this week protestors were making the headlines. Plus, the Mason City Council tonight will vote tonight on Prestage Farms’ plan to build a pork processing plant.

If you Google “Prestage Farms Mason City,” you’ll find that the headlines from March tout the number of jobs this pork harvesting facility will bring to North Iowa. Over time, the headlines become more skeptical. This week, most likely due to protests by a group of small local producers, Central Iowa based activist groups and a few other area residents, the headlines have become more negative.

I’ve read the letters to the editor and many articles that ran in our regional newspapers. I agree most with what Alicia Schmidt from The Pork Dairies wrote:

“Adding a new facility close to our farm to sell pigs will create good price competition. Good price competition equals money in our pockets that we use to grow and prosper as farmers. Most importantly, this means more money into the pockets of local small business owners. Prestage Farms brings these opportunities to North Iowa.”

12592774_975788905824435_7592429400395542066_nTruth is, I have almost 60 years of experience raising pigs, and I have years of experience with building pig barns. I’ve raised pigs just about every way imaginable. I remember going with my grandfather to the Coulter creamery for whey to “slop” the hogs, which was fed as protein in addition to the ear corn that Grandpa fed hogs being raised outdoors. It took a lot longer for pigs being raised this way to reach market weight.

I also remember sows on pasture using hay racks for shade in the summer to keep cool. I also remember jumping onto those racks to get away from sows, which were chasing me because they were so protective of their piglets. It was a tough way to do chores! Those sows made “nests” in a mud hole to stay cool, and their piglets often drowned if it rained too much.

Some folks are sharing photos of animals raised outside in a beautiful green grass pasture, but this is not the reality of farming in the “good ol’ days”. There were days when the hot sun baked the land. Other days rain soaked the countryside and thick mud made it a challenge to get around. And this is Iowa, so we also must remember all the snow and sub-zero temperatures those animals faced during a long winter!

If Facebook would’ve been around when I was raising pigs outside, I’m sure someone would’ve tagged me pictures of knitted sweaters for piglets! That brings up another point… My livestock have never been pets, and there is a difference.

543105_10151382209115050_1834100237_nBut I’m going to use a pet analogy here in hopes non-pig farmers will better understand modern pig farming methods. Would you leave your little puppy outside overnight on an Iowa winter night during a blizzard? Of course not! Would you protect your dog from being attacked when your pet is either in your yard or on a walk? Of course! We raise our pigs in temperature-controlled barns to maximize animal comfort. We also use gestation stalls to protect sows from other sows, otherwise they will kill each other! In addition, these pigs are given the exact amount of feed they need plus all the fresh water they can drink.

Now the way I farm – and many other pig farmers raise livestock – is being attacked because a new processing plant being considered. All the progress we have made in farming is being attacked! Unfortunately, people with no experience on the farm are telling the general public how I raise pigs.

If you have questions about modern pig farming, ask me! I’m willing to share what I do, and I’m willing to explain why I believe Prestage Farms can be good for North Iowa. I’ve lived just south of Mason City all my life. I watched it grow, but lately I’ve seen too many businesses close. It’s time to make an investment in North Iowa!

This investment in the North Iowa community may not be what everyone thinks is ideal, but “ideal” is really a matter of opinion. This plant will provide local jobs and improve the lives of many people. Here’s what the Storm Lake Chief of Police says about the turkey and pork processing facilities located in that community of 10,900 people, “…the pros far outweigh the cons. It has made this community better, bigger and stronger.”

Just consider what Prestage could do for the tax base alone! (Proponents say the project will have an economic impact of $750 million on the region through population growth and spending at local businesses.) More working people will be able to buy homes, and that means more kids will be enrolled in school. It means more people will shop in our stores. More than Mason City will benefit as people will commute for jobs. Many of our smaller towns will get a huge boost, and they need it!

Grain farming is not the only type of farming we need. Business needs diversity, and our farms need diversity. Our people need diversity. Let’s welcome new ideas, new technology, so we can prosper together!

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