In Illinois, community members fight a CAFO



While we’re talking hogs… Nick Cleer, a farmer in Fulton County, Illinois, sold some farmland a few years ago, and now that land is in the hands of Professional Swine Management LLC, which runs 27 concentrated animal feeding operations (commonly known as CAFOs) in the Midwest, raising 120,000 hogs. The past two decades have seen 900 such CAFOs set themselves up across Illinois.

The rapid expansion of CAFOs in the Midwest has prompted a loose network of neighboring farmers and neighbors to fervently get organized, locality by locality.

Now, Professional Swine wants to turn Cleer’s former land into a facility servicing 20,000 hogs (it would be the company’s fifth facility in the county), and the citizens of Fulton aren’t happy: They’ve put forward a resolution to the state to prevent the development, given how close Cleer’s land is to long-established residences and small family farms. The former Cleer Farm is, for example, a short walk from the county’s historic schoolhouse.

Covering the story last week, the Chicago Tribune points out that, “The resolution is only symbolic because Illinois law gives local communities little if any power over the siting of new confinements. Even the Illinois Department of Agriculture lacks legal authority to deny a company’s notice of intent to construct. At most, it can send back the notice with questions.”

The Tribune’s reporting is in a follow-up article to a comprehensive and detailed four-part series it did in August called “The Price of Pork,” in which the paper found, among many other things, that “hog waste spills accounted for nearly half of the 1 million fish killed in Illinois water pollution incidents from 2005 to 2014.”

The rapid expansion of CAFOs in the Midwest has prompted a loose network of neighboring farmers and neighbors to fervently get organized, locality by locality. Take Lowell and Evelyn Trom, whom I learned about back in November. The group they inspired—Dodge County Concerned Citizens—is litigating to prevent the installation of an eleventh swine feedlot operation within a three-mile radius of their southeastern Minnesota farm.

Meanwhile, back in Illinois, Professional Swine decided to call its new facility “Cleer Farm LLC.” Nick Cleer and the rest of the Cleer family are distressed. As he told the Tribune: “We are sick that they are using our name; it is heartbreaking how somebody would do that.”

Well, at least the Cleers got a little comfort, however cold. The newspaper called Professional Swine to inquire about the name choice. Subsequently, the company changed the name of its proposed 22,000-hog CAFO from Cleer Farm LLC to … Memory Lane Farms LLC.

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Jeffrey Kittay After teaching literature at Yale, Kittay founded and was editor-in-chief of the magazine Lingua Franca: The Review of Academic Life, which the New York Times called “a hip trade journal for the cerebral set.” It won the National Magazine Award for General Excellence. He was subsequently part of the adjunct faculty at the Graduate School of Journalism of Columbia University, and the corporate board of Maine’s Portland Press Herald.

Kittay holds a Ph.D. from NYU and an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Amherst College.