The problems with Factory Farms

Large agribusiness corporations, with cooperation from state agencies, are profiting from selling communities and individual farmers an unsustainable model of production that undermines real economic development in rural areas, destroys property values and public health, and pollutes our land, water, and air.

The State of South Dakota has seen a rapid increase of Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO’s) during the past few years. The increase is due to the state’s courting of mega-dairies and giant hog confinements from other states, as well as corporate aggregators courting individual farmers to “buy themselves a job” raising hogs by borrowing hundreds of thousands of dollars to build 2400-head hog barns with no DENR permit required and no oversight.

And our State Administration and Regional Planning Districts are leading county officials to believe they’ve no right to say no. 

Our neighboring state of Iowa is so overrun by hog factories that support is growing for a moratorium on new CAFO construction. That means the corporations that have profited immensely from polluting Iowa are looking for new ground. And now hog factories are coming to South Dakota by the dozens.

CAFO applications to a local zoning board are usually met with opposition from neighbors who are concerned about odor, manure, and other environmental issues. People whose families have lived on the land for generations fear they’ll no longer be able to let their kids and grandkids play outside, to barbeque or ride horses, or even do their own farm chores without being sickened by the odor, noxious gasses, and harmful particulates.

And what if they want to sell their place? Even CAFO proponents admit that, “no one wants to live near that.” Once a CAFO comes in–even within a couple of miles–a home becomes nearly impossible to sell for its previous value, if it sells at all. If the land sells, the buildings may be bulldozed and the ground is farmed over. One more family gone from the land and the community.

CAFO proponents (corporations, consultants, lenders, and contractors who make the vast majority of the money off them) tout their construction as “economic development” for rural communities. But, when CAFOs move in, people move out. So, who is this economic development for? 


However, there are many possible solutions to these problems including:

    • Education & training for elected and appointed officials on their authority and responsibility when it comes to permitting CAFOs and other industrial development in their counties & municipalities
    • Provide alternative models of production & marketing for beginning farmers and those wishing to diversify their operations and manage risk while maintaining profitability
    • Expose the harmful effects of corporate and contract models that undermine our freedom and prosperity
    • Pressure state agencies to adopt a more rigorous permitting process and more vigorous oversight of existing facilities
    • Educate and empower citizens to participate in and protect their democracy and public hearing process


Members of Dakota Rural Action have joined together to work on solutions like these as part of our Rural Vitality Committee (RVC).

The mission of the Rural Vitality Committee is to lead South Dakota citizens toward a knowledgeable, working understanding of the relationship between agriculture and the environment; supporting and promoting agricultural systems that protect our air quality, water quality, public health, and socio-economics; and sustaining vibrant communities for future generations.

We achieve this by working to halt the unchecked expansion of Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) across our state, and to uphold the authority of county officials to apply more stringent protections for public health, water quality, property values, and quality of life for residents of their communities.

We believe in vibrant rural communities and neighbors who respect each other and work together. We believe in taking back our agricultural systems from corporate ownership and control and building markets that sustain our lives and livelihoods. We also believe in preserving and protecting our democracy and local control within our counties and communities.

Many of the people who make up our Rural Vitality Committee are farmers and landowners who have had their way of life threatened by CAFO development; some are scientists concerned about clean air, water quality, and soil health. There are urban dwellers who support family farmers and homegrown prosperity by purchasing local food, and there are rural people who do this work out of love for their families, their neighbors, and their community.

ALL of us care about South Dakota and our unique and precious way of life. 

If this sounds like you, then you should be a member of Dakota Rural Action. Join today!

And you can help us win the fight.

Contact us at or call 605-697-5204 for more information on the Rural Vitality Committee.

CAFO Resources

Is your community being impacted by a proposed CAFO in South Dakota? Find resources for citizens HERE.

Are you a County Commissioner or member of a planning and zoning board? Find Resources for elected officials HERE.

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