Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Swine flu sorrows

The Guardianistas are blaming swine flu on US multinational pig-rearing corporations, who apparently have exported pig CAFOs to Mexico where they are unregulated and don't have to properly treat or handle wastes. This comes the day after Aimee and Jen's Nicaragua travel class explained to its audience how US corporations and Ronald Reagan's right-wing heros like Olliver North were responsible, in their eyes, for some of the misery they encountered in that country this spring.

As a small scale pig-rearer and livestock farmer, I have little sympathy for the CAFOs. I don't eat their product, and never will, since I have plenty of much healthier produce of my own.

However, one predictable consequence of a US-caused swine fever epidemic is likely to be the rejuvenation of the NAIS regulation push from USDA. NAIS, or North American Animal Identification System, was a push to register farms and animals, and to computer-track their pathways from farm to market so food safety concerns could be addressed more easily. It was looking like a dead duck.

I think it's going to have a miraculous recovery.

Like a lot of small farmers, I'm fearful of USDA regulation if it means a lot of work and inspectors stumbling over my rust garden looking for pathogens. It's a lot easier for the big agribusiness corporations to make it look like they run nice sanitized clean operations, and to comply with paperwork and regulations. They don't have to study up on it all themselves after a hard day's work at a day job they can't quit.

It's probably better for me to spend that extra hour or two mucking out the barn than filling out the form.

While I tend to walk around with a supposition that my small mixed livestock/horticulture farm, with its well-sized but limited level of operation, green grass, shady pastures, obviously healthy animals, and non-smelly well-aerated compost piles to manage wastes, is inherently superior to any corporate set-up.

I guess we may find out, when swine flu hits as it probably will, how well we can manage.

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