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The death of a 27-year-old Brookings County farmer in February and the entrapment of a man in Hughes County in March have highlighted the dangers of handling grain in bins on farms in South Dakota and across the country. Grain bin accidents have plagued farmers for generations, but after a bad year for incidents last year, conditions this year may be even more dangerous due to wet weather in 2019 that led to a late harvest of damp, clumpy grain.
A California energy company plans to install technology at South Dakota dairy farms that will capture methane from manure and convert it into natural gas. Three Sioux Falls-area dairy farms are signed on to the program that will create a new revenue stream for the farmers, generate a source of renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Whether it is hogs, cattle, chickens or turkeys, South Dakota farmers who operate concentrated animal feeding operations take pride in their work and feel good about the foods they produce. In this article, part of a two-week special report on the growth of concentrated animal feeding operations, South Dakota News Watch reporter Bart Pfankuch takes readers behind the barn walls for a tour of three South Dakota livestock operations and provides insight into the farmers who are part of a trend of expansion of large livestock farms.
As the majority of livestock production in America has moved to concentrated animal feeding operations, new and expanding research has increasingly shown a correlation to the farms and human health problems, environmental issues and possibly the rise of antibiotic-resistance illnesses.
PART 1 OF A 2-WEEK SERIES: South Dakota livestock production is undergoing a major transition with the expansion of concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, in which thousands and even millions of animals are raised in a confined space. The large livestock operations are efficient and profitable, but they can also harm human health and damage the environment. As opposition rises, state government is offering financial incentives to counties that approve new projects. Along the way, the farms are sowing heated division in many rural communities and stoking fears South Dakota may end up like CAFO-heavy Iowa, which has seen fish kills and waterway pollution.
THIS WEEK: Overview of CAFO growth in S.D.; Health concerns follow CAFOs; New state program provides financial incentives for CAFOs.
NEXT WEEK: A visit to three large S.D. livestock operations