I would like to respond to a letter from George Fournier (“Coronavirus And CAFOs,” Press & Dakotan, Feb. 21). This is the first of two submissions.

COVID-19, a novel virus originating in China, appears to have developed as a chance combination of virus genetic pieces from a human, a bat and an unknown wild animal. Once created this new virus spreads PERSON to PERSON. Pigs have not been implicated as the source. It is devastating to China and scary to the world. Using it to spread misinformation about hog barns is dishonest.

Your comparison of a modern hog facility to the wet market in Wuhan, China, is ridiculous. A modern hog facility is a far cry from your vivid description. In order to be successful at producing quality, wholesome pork for food a producer strives for healthy, happy animals. It does a producer no good to mistreat the animals. The livestock spreads out in large pens with appropriate amounts of space, food and water for the growing pigs. Biosecurity limits transfer of human or other pig illnesses. It is not open to wild animals as you insinuate. The facilities are sanitary and regulated by the producers and by governmental regulations.

I would ask you to stop besmirching the reputations of local family farmers with your inaccurate representation of swine facilities. Hog facilities have nothing to do with COVID-19. Your inaccurate association, meant to spread fear, is shameful.

(6) comments

Honest Abe

when pigs are discarded outside and animals come along and drag them away, which is happening already, you call that sanitary. You say these barns are regulated by Government regulations. That is funny, we all know that the DENR is not going to do anything and that these CAFO Building owners of the corporation products inside (pigs) don't follow local rules or laws (building without permits and CUPS). don't lecture about how well you care and people shouldn't spread fear, this makes you a hypocrite. these communities were told these barns would bring lots of jobs, lots of money to the county....we are still waiting. we know the feed, construction products, pigs, truck drivers, etc... are not from here, and the person running the barns are not from the Family leasing the building. CAFOs have a history, backed by years of research in multiple states by multiple factions of government, education and other realms; of destroying neighbors, communities and running the Family Farmers out of business. you say it is spreading fear is shameful, what about telling everything one thing and then not following through- that is lying, selfish and shameful

Nschenk

Honest Abe,

1. Thanks for posting your concerns. I’m glad to address them as it seems you may not know a lot about our barns or my family. First though, let me say one thing. The main purpose of my letter was to dispel the connection that was presented by the writer implying covid 19 and hog barns were linked. So Thank you for not disagreeing with that ridiculous point. Now, let me answer your concerns.

2. Expired animals are placed in a closed container near our barns the moment they leave the barn. They are rendered in short order. Our animals have never been in a place where a wild animal could get near them. I’m curious though, do you worry about wild animals that die along our roadway or in a field being carried away?

3. Our barns are sanitary. We wash and disinfect the entire barn several times a year. We shower and sanitize in and out of the barn every time we enter and leave. We have protocols to keep things clean and orderly.

4. We have several levels of regulation. First the County has specific performance standards that we follow outlined in our ordinance and in our CUP. Second, we follow specific DENR regulations for every barn. We have standards imposed by all our business partners that we follow. We have specific National Pork Board standards that we are proud to follow. Finally, we have very high personal standards for the care of our Family Farm.

5. We carried proper building permits and have active CUP’S for our barns We have followed the ordinance and the law. Just because someone charges something different does not mean they are right. A court of Law will exonerate our name.

6. Just off the top of my head, we have added 2 full time employees at our farm. We buy our supplies locally. We use several local independent contractors for jobs involving our barns and the pigs. We will have a significant tax payment. We pay for utilities, propane, gravel, insurance to local providers. I’m curious Honest Abe, are you able to stimulate economic growth to our County too ? How do we compare?

7. My husband and all four children and their spouses/ significant others all help regularly in our barns on a daily basis. We enjoy caring for the animals.

8. These barns preserve family farms. It allows a farmer to live the variability of the grain market but have the stability of the regular cash flow. If both parts are variable it involves nothing but risk. We personally will be able to bring two children back to our farm and to Yankton County as a result of these barns.

9. Message me if you would like a tour. I think I have always been honest and follow through.l, even to the point that I am frank with my identity. I hope that helps.

Nancy Schenk

Local Resident

Dr. Fourinier was not besmirching anyone in his letter to the editor on February 20. He was simply stating facts on how the virus can spread and how crowded conditions, regardless of whether it is human or animals, can exponentially increase the threat of the coronavirus. Dr. Fournier is not a viral research scientist and he knows it, neither is Ms. Schenk.

Ms. Schenk implies that the barns are free of wild life therefor pigs cannot get the disease and be a carrier. That is a fair enough statement, but hog barns with side curtains are not exempt from birds or other carriers from entering. In addition we all know that rodents are resourceful, but there is no way they can be eliminated 100% of the time in rural areas with these types of facilities.

The CDC has also indicated that not only is the virus airborne, but that it can be transmitted through fecal matter and other solids, be they body fluids or simply a small piece of skin. CDC has also indicated that the virus can survive on a surface at room temperature from 5-9 days. CDC further states that cool damp temperatures can prolong the survival rate for the virus. We all know what that means in a hog barn.

The biosecurity that Ms. Schenk speaks of is commendable, once again CDC says not all disinfectants are effective. What is used in these hog facilities for that purpose? Employees can be infected and leave traces of the virus simply by coughing, sneezing, or spitting on the floor, not to mention bare hands, fingernails, other solids, or other fecal matter that might be carried into the facility unknowingly by that employee working in that facility. The definition of the term Ms. Schenk uses "Biosecurity" is "limits, but does not prevent the spread of a virus".

In simple terms these facilities are crowded when you consider the number of square feet per animal unit and the possibility of viral infection, maybe that is why the CDC suggests that people use extreme caution if they choose to attended crowed events.

Dr. Fournier does not say that pigs caused this, he uses the word mirror, meaning that the crowed and sanitary conditions of the Wuhan Market could easily be a hog facility if not properly regulated and cared for. A proactive statement to hopefully prevent a pandemic in this county.

Citizens should be overjoyed that a respected physician and loyal citizen of Yankton County has the courage to come forward with scenario that is possible, but hope never comes to fruition.

Nschenk

Dear “Local Resident,

The statement “Wet market conditions mirror those existing in US Swine CAFOS,” and then going on with a description that included crowded, unsanitary facilities open to wild animals that are poorly regulated is definitely damaging to the reputation of a family farm raising hogs in a confinement. It is an inaccurate comparison and I hope he will consider taking a tour.

Most physicians are not experts in all fields. I certainly am not. But I have done extensive research on this particular topic from both sides of this issue, as I am a physician and a family farmer. When I read the inaccurate information in Dr. Fournier”s letter I felt obligated to offer truthful information to the readers.

Based on the rest of your letter you are not understanding an important point. Covid-19 is a Human virus. It is not found in pigs or hog barns. It has NOT been spreading among animals. It developed from a combination of RNA viral material of a human with a probable bat and another wild animal. It formed a NEW HUMAN virus. Once this original virus developed NO additional animals were involved. Only people spread it. It’s a human virus. Not pigs. Quit trying to link them. Your statements describing Covid-19 and implying a hog facility is a breading ground is completely inaccurate. Unless we decided to house 2400 college kids in our barn, there will be no formation or transfer of the HUMAN virus called Covid 19 in our barn. Implying hog barns play a part is damaging to hog operations, family farms and is fear mongering.

A few other inaccuracies that I’d like to correct. Hog barns are not cool and dark. We utilize many modern technologies to include state of the art computers and automation. In addition we do have lights, windows, and heat. Hard to believe right?

Hog barns with side curtains have screens that are well maintained to keep birds on the outside. There is a solid roof that keeps birds from defecating on or near the pigs. This is unlike pasture animals who have proven to be a source of previous novel virus pandemics. Rodents can be a problem wherever grain is kept. Our bulk feed bins are raised off the ground and are a closed system. Any spillage during delivery of product is cleaned up. We use local exterminators to monitor and treat potential problems aggressively. Although I can’t promise 100% rodent control, I bet it’s better than most rural acreages.

These barns are not crowded. If these pigs were not happy and content they would not be as productive as they are.

Please continue to be concerned regarding Covid 19 and it’s person to person spread. Caution does need to be taken. But leave the pigs out of this discussion. There is no link.

Nancy Schenk, MD and Proud Family Farmer

ConcernedMD

The following is a direct quote from a study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases December 15, 2016, Paul Lantos as the lead investigator. Dr Schenk should be familiar with this journal: “We found that during the 2009–2010 and 2010–2011 influenza seasons, both seasons in which the pandemic 2009 H1N1 influenza A virus circulated, ILI (influenza like illness) peaked earlier in counties with a higher number of licensed swine operations. We did not observe this in 2008–2009 or 2011–2012, nor did we observe a relationship between ILI onset week and number of swine operations."

Swine confinement operations, especially the low tech open curtain kind, pose significant risks for the counties that harbor them. Placing these confinements over shallow aquifers that supply the water to Yankton, seems especially foolish, largely because these facilities present public health risks that go beyond the infectious disease risk. The old adage "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" applies to dealing with pandemics. Best not to create conditions that increase the probability of starting one. To even the casual observer, the wet market conditions in China MIRROR those in swine CAFOS, as they set an environment that favors the rapid dissemination of disease, be it Corona or Influenza virus, amongst the animals confined. In the last County Commission election, the citizens clearly spoke to the careless use of the variance power of the zoning commission. Dr Schenk, as does our Governor, ignores the reality that putting facilities that each produce more manure than the entire county population and are known amplifiers of disease in any location she pleases can hardly be construed as "economic development". The retort that there are many "rules" in place governing these facilities is little comfort given the fact that the DENR has no funding, mandate, or will to enforce these "rules" or monitor compliance with them. To object to low tech high risk inhumane CAFOS is not to be anti-farmer. My concern is that little is being done to implement or improve the safety and efficacy of livestock farming. Large processors benefit themselves at the expense of producers and the public by narrowing the market of buyers, by influencing state politicians, by controlling the commodity price and by dictating to producers the methods of production that ignore the health risks to the public at large.

Local Resident

I believe that Ms. Schenk should read my comments again. She has misread, misrepresented, and misinterpreted most all of it. Making issues of items that were never suggested or said is an indication of desperation and only causes one to wonder what the ultimate motive really is

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.