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Left and Right Find Common Ground in Opposition to Mega-Dairies

Nov 30, 2011

It can be lonely on the “Left” in South Dakota. William Pratt's essay in The Plains Political Tradition contends that South Dakota's Left dissolved in the 1930s and hasn't resurged since. It thus makes sense that we hardy Dakota Lefties end up consorting with some distinctly un-Left characters.

Consider dairy politics. For years, South Dakota policy has favored enormous concentrated animal feeding operations that milk thousands of cattle a day. The state actively recruits foreign operators and investors to invest millions of dollars in these mega-dairies.

With my Lefty goggles, I see such mega-dairies doing more harm than good to South Dakota. These CAFOs pour tons of manure into their lagoons, creating a stench and ongoing environmental risk to surrounding watersheds. Cattle in crowded CAFO conditions require more antibiotics, which get into both the milk and the environment. The state's support of these mega-dairies makes it even harder for small family dairies to survive.

These Left-flavored concerns about big dairies align me awkwardly with Representative Stace Nelson. The Fulton Republican is at least as far Right as I am Left. This year, Rep. Nelson has spoken up on behalf of Hanson County neighbors who want to block a proposed 7000-head dairy in their neighborhood. These dairy opponents mention pollution, but they are concerned about another issue associated with big dairies: illegal immigration.

I worry that concerns about illegal immigration often mask (thinly) an unpalatable rejection of people who don't look like us. I can sympathize with Mexicans who travel 2000 miles to this strange, cold land to milk cows and make a living they can't make back home.

But I can also sympathize with my Hanson County neighbors. No one should break the law to work here. No one should make money on the backs of an illegal (and thus easily exploitable) workforce. I thus find myself hoping that the very right-wing Rep. Nelson can raise concerns about South Dakota's mega-dairies that my left-wing voice cannot carry as well here.

And as I write this story, Rep. Nelson makes news saying his party leadership is taking away his seat on the House Agriculture committee over his opposition to the Hanson County Dairy. Hmm... party leaders putting big business interests over voicing concerns of common citizens... that sounds like one more issue where Right and Left might find some common ground.


Cory Allen Heidelberger writes the Madville Times political blog. He grew up on the shores of Lake Herman. He studied math and history at SDSU and information systems at DSU, and is currently teaching French at Spearfish High School. A longtime country dweller, Cory is enjoying "urban" living with his family in Spearfish.


08:49 am - Thu, December 1 2011
Bernie Hunhoff said:
When it comes to big "everythings" -- dairies, banks, power plants, pipelines -- I am not against any of them. But somehow they should be made to pay the costs that they impose on society if they pollute or require infra-structure issues, law enforcement, welfare costs, etc.

Just the opposite is happening, they are too often being subsidized to come and compete with others (bigger or smaller) who aren't causing those problems and have been paying taxes all through the years.

The subsidies are endless -- TIFFs, discretionary tax formulas, loans, grants, training funds, etc.

I'm for a free market... and that has to include paying your own way if you create problems, and paying the same taxes as the other guy.

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