Raising a Stink: The Struggle over Factory Hog Farms in Nebraska

Raising a Stink: The Struggle over Factory Hog Farms in Nebraska

Raising a Stink: The Struggle over Factory Hog Farms in Nebraska

Raising a Stink: The Struggle over Factory Hog Farms in Nebraska


In Nebraska, as in many states across the nation, factory farms housing tens of thousands of hogs have altered the physical, cultural, and economic landscape, and have generated complex and deeply divisive conflicts among family farmers, environmentalists, agribusinesses, and elected officials. A reporter long familiar with the controversy, Carolyn Johnsen draws on a wealth of interviews, archival material, and her own extensive experience as a journalist to present a timely, informative, and balanced account of this complicated and troubling agricultural practice--and to put a human face on its causes and consequences. Here everyone has a say: farmers and neighbors suffering from proximity to the factory hog farms; pork producers adopting the latest hog confinement technology in the face of fierce opposition; politicians attempting to interpret the "science" and shape public policy in a maelstrom. The result is the story of a struggle for the heart and soul of rural America.


The essential project of the American West was to exploit the
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– Patricia Nelson Limerick, The Legacy of Conquest

What I learned of the contemporary swine industry began in 1997 at Nebraska Public Radio. On a beat that encompassed both agriculture and the environment, I naturally paid attention to the growing storm in the countryside. The Norfolk Daily News called it “a vitally important struggle … for the soul of northeast Nebraska’s towns and the farms that undergird them.”

My first personal encounter with the intensity of the debate came in October 1997 at a long hearing in a public hall in Crete that was part of a study by two committees of the Nebraska legislature. Among the two hundred or more people in the crowd, the lines were clearly drawn between those who saw opportunity in factorylike hog production and those who predicted the death of the family farm and the contamination of precious air and water. The same actors are still on the stage today, more than four years later.

Between 1997 and 2000 I wrote more than one hundred stories on the controversy over mega–hog farms. It became clear to me that there was much more to the story than was possible to tell in ten or a hundred fiveminute radio reports. This book is the result of my desire to know more than I could learn under the pressure of a daily deadline. I also wanted to create a . . .

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