Welcome to Panfish

Part Twenty-two


Hog Farming

"Still Hunting, Foul Weather and Fouled Streams"
By Randy Fratzke


I'm sorry to leave you all hanging by the edge of your seats, asking "has he caught it yet?", "has he even seen it again", etc. Unfortunately, it's been raining off and on for almost two solid weeks now, the streams are muddy and rising and the fishing patterns are about as messed up as my beard. In a nut shell, nope, I haven't seen "the beast", the ducks have been flocking in on their migration south and the only thing bothering them are a few "preseason hunters testing their weapons".... But the rising water does bring up another topic that I've been itching to talk about... Let me get out my soap box (you may want to put on your waders...)

As some of you know already, and the rest of you do as you read this, I live in the great state of Iowa. The heart of the Midwest, "bread basket of the world", "the tall corn state", "hog heaven". It's the last reference that I'd like to discuss at this time. Hog Heaven.

In the past few years large hog production corporations have made deals with a lot of small farmers in the state to place hog confinement buildings on their farms. In trade for this, the farmer takes care of the hogs, raising them to butcher weight and taking a cut of the profit. (Lately, the market has been so low that there isn't much profit) Now let me explain a "hog confinement operation" so you understand what I'm talking about.

There are two main types, both usually have the capability of raising and finishing 600 to 900 hogs. The first type is a concrete structure built atop a reinforced concrete well. The hogs naturally defecate (I'm trying to be delicate here...) and the resulting effluence is washed down into the holding wells or tanks. When the tanks are full, the farmer pumps them out and spreads the mixture onto his fields as fertilizer. (which is locally known as: "The smell of money") If the tanks become too full the result is a lot of manure in the hog building, usually resulting in diseased and dead hogs (bad for profit). The other type is, basically, the same type of building, built without the underground tanks or wells and the resulting manure is pumped into what is known as a "holding lagoon" (one that you definitely do not want to fish in!) which are built from clay and dirt, usually into a side of a hill. Ideally, when the lagoon becomes full, the farmer pumps some of it out and spreads it on his fields.

Typical Hog Buildings

It's the second type of hog operation that has become a major problem in this state (and many other states from what I have gathered). Last month a farmer just across the border, in Minnesota, hired a private contractor to "lower the edge of a lagoon a couple of feet to let some of the "water" run off because it was a little too full". Now I've know since I was a little kid playing in the creeks that if you build a dam from dirt and you put a little crease in the top to let some water over the dam that a common effect known as erosion takes place, usually resulting in the loss of the entire pool of water through the dam. However, apparently this farmer and contractor never played in creeks or made dams when they were younger. The result was more than 100,000 gallons of manure spilled into a creek that fed one of our states only naturally breeding trout streams. It wiped everything in both the creek and the stream for miles, and will continue killing as it continues down stream. The DNR has stated that it "will have devastating effects on the fishery for several years." Not much more has been heard about it since. The Pork Industry has VERY deep pockets in this state!

In doing some research, I came upon many other spills, accidents, over flows, etc. that affected our waterways. Semi trailers tipped over, filled with fuel or corrosive materials, illegal dumping of "unknown substances" resulting in fish kills, etc. Five in the month of August alone. One fish kill resulted in the death of over 35,000 fish, they located the source and the resulting fine was $5,000.00 (slightly over $0.14 per fish killed). Go figure!

I contacted both, the local and the state DNR about regulations on the hog confinement operations, they said they could do nothing until they have laws or regulations to enforce and advised me to write to the politicians. I have written letters and Emails to the local, county and state politicians pleading for planning and zoning ordinances and laws to govern the construction, operation and inspections of the facilities and fines that will actually deter some of the poor construction that results in accidents. I have not gotten a single response. Like I said earlier, the pork industry has VERY deep pockets, and this is an election year, and the farmers votes are VERY important to every politician. Obviously, anglers, hunters and outdoors people don't have deep pockets or at least a large contingent of advocates working for us.

So my only plan is to offer a "free junket" to every politician I can find in the state to see if they would like to join me in a day of fishing. I'll provide the transportation, the rods, reels, flies, bait, whatever, and pick the water and take them to one of the streams in their towns, cities, counties, or districts to fish in a stream that is full of manure or pollutants. Let them breath the air, see the dead fish carcasses lining the shoreline, and observe the alg' and weed clogged waterways created by over fertilized water. I'm sure that I'll have as much response to the offer as I have had to my original inquiry. Maybe if I invite them to a pork dinner they'd come, what do you think?~Randy Fratzke

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