Wisconsin native, Marquette County farmer and PhD, Dr. Philip Whitford is a widely recognized expert on all kinds of animals, both domestic and wild. He even speaks Geese.
During his career as an associate professor of biology at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, Whitford deciphered the language of the Canada goose by studying its posturing and voice. While that knowledge may not have led to many deep conversations, it did result in an invention he calls the “Goosebuster,” a scientifically designed sound device that’s been proven highly effective in humanely keeping the critters away from emerging crop fields.
If only Whitford could translate his success with the birds to a different, more serious pest. What Wisconsin needs now is a CAFO Buster.
Speaking last month in Coloma to a gathering of citizens fighting to avert an environmental boondoggle in Adams County, Whitford outlined the dangers of factory farms to both the health and the economy of their neighbors. “The World Health Organization and wildlife pathology people are warning us that most of the major pandemics like swine flu and bird flu are coming out of China and other areas where you have intense agriculture and people mixed together,” he said. “It happens where you have thousands and thousands of animals, be they chickens, swine or cows, in close contact with human beings in a situation where their immune systems are suppressed by antibiotics. There’s a realistic chance of that happening any place when you put the animals in close confines where people have to inhale the same air.”
That would be a fair description of CAFOs all over the state like the one proposed near Coloma. There are thousands of losers where these things are built and only a very small number of winners. Whitford has no trouble telling which is which. “The whole idea is the smells from the waste being spread, the decrease in the quality of the ground water and the reduction in the esthetics of the local area reduce land values,” he said. “Nobody wants to be buying near these places.” Certainly not the people who own them. Whitford notes that those people tend to live somewhere else and to avoid using their own products. “They have the economic opportunity to do better,” he said. “There’s no reason they would want to go to Wal-Mart and buy cheap meat.
“They run them for a while, and they depreciate them. You can put one of these things in, make money and write it off as a depreciation loss for ten years, and you’ve gotten more out of it than you’ve invested. Then you can sell it to somebody else, who starts the same process again. Or you sell it to another company you own and begin the process again. It’s all sleight of hand economically.”
And it’s been going on all over Wisconsin for far too long. Like Whitford’s geese, factory farmers need to straighten up and fly right.