Ulla Kjarval and Adriana Velez

A Local Farmer’s Perspective On Having a 72,000 Head Cattle CAFO Next Door

In Farmer's Concerns, Food Chain, Food System, Policy, Uncategorized on May 5, 2010 at 2:10 pm

If proposed plant goes through the Port of Oswego would become a hub for corn shipped in from the Mid-West.

Karen Hall and her family are farmers in Upstate, NY and live in the town where a proposed mega cattle finishing facility is planned to be built. The company behind the project have already received town board approval but as Karen Hall, points out in her interview, there are many unfortunate risks that need to be looked into before such a large project is undertaken. To think that such a large amount of cattle (about 72,000) would be so close to a populated area with vital rivers is enough to rethink this new plant. It is always refreshing and important to hear from local residents and farmers.

You are fighting the proposed cattle finishing facility and ethanol plant in your community.  Can you tell me a bit about yourself and why you are fighting this?

My name is Karen Hall.  My family owns a horse breeding operation and we are very concerned about the ramifications of this project for many reasons.  If there are diseased animals (which is inevitable with facilities of this type) all animals within a certain radius will need to be destroyed.  This would obviously devastate our family business.  There are several restaurants and stores in the vicinity that would be negatively affected as well.

Can you tell me about your community and how you think it will be impacted by a facility of this size?

Schroeppel is surrounded by three rivers, many aquifers and it is roughly a half an hour south of Lake Ontario. It has been hoped that fishing and tourism would be a draw for our area. A facility such as this would certainly not be conducive to attracting tourists.  There really is no place this plant could be situated where it will not affect the water supply.  A large portion of residents in this area rely on well water and there are serious concerns that our water supply will be contaminated by the plant.

How do you think this proposed CAFO would impact NYS’s greater agricultural community?

One of the reasons they have chosen this area is to utilize the Port of Oswego to ship supplies in and product out.  They have already indicated that they will have to ship corn and other supplies in, so in reality local farmers will really not benefit greatly from them buying feed and hay, etc. from them.  I truly think on every level possible, smaller, well-run farms that cater to the local economy are much better for the animals, the environment and people who live in the vicinity.  Huge facilities such as this have horrendous conditions for animals and workers, ravage the environment and destroy local infrastructure.   Also, the technology that Bion is proposing to use is not even proven yet.  The residents of Schroeppel and the surrounding areas have no desire to be guinea pigs for this technology and ruin our property values and quality of life in the process.

It seems that Bion Industries wants to cash in on government subsidies and might be seeking infrastructural support from local governments.  Do you have any concerns about this?

Absolutely.  As a matter of fact, in Meade, Nebraska a similar project was built and closed within eight months.  The company got all of the subsidies, the farmers and those who provided services were not paid and the local government was left to figure out what to do with the closed plant.  The amount of traffic that this project would bring would be detrimental to all surrounding areas.  Other smaller projects have been declined because our infrastructure could not support it, so how could it possibly support a project of this size?

St. Lawrence County was successful at stopping a similar project, have they been helpful to you? What have you learned?

They have been very helpful.  They have done amazing research and allowed us to use it on our website.  The main difference though was they were able to present the facts to the Town Board before it was voted on.  Once the Town Board saw how the negatives far out way the positives, they voted to not allow the project.  Here in Schroeppel, the Town Board voted to allow Bion to move forward without extensive public input, so we have a different political battle on our hands.

How are you fighting this plant?

Currently, we are bringing it to the attention of the public.  Due to the way it was handled, people in the area really are not even aware of the project.  We are writing Letters To The Editor, designing posters, flyers and postcards, starting a petition and we have a website that has all of the information and research for the project.  Our goal is for people to educate themselves.  Once they do that, it is very easy to see this is not a benefit to our community.  We are also encouraging people to attend the Town Board meetings so we can have our concerns addressed.  In addition, this plant will certainly will not only affect Schroeppel, so we have contacted surrounding Town Boards so they are aware of the situation as well.

Is there a Facebook page or website where people can visit to learn about your efforts and to express their concerns?

Yes, there is a Facebook Group (Phoenix Talks: Slaughterhouse Project. Get informed, get involved!)
and a My Space page where we post when our meetings will be, etc.  Our website www.phoenixtalks.com really is a clearinghouse for information.  We want people to go there to read about the project and write what they think about it so Bion and the Town Board understand the depth of the concerns of citizens.

Is there any way the citizens of New York State can help and support you in your fight?

Yes, please contact your NYS and federal representatives and tell them to not support subsidies for these projects and to invest in family farms rather than factory farms.

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