A Policy Memo to Local Legislators Concerning SD’s CAFO Development

TO: Gary L. Cammack, Lee Qualm (SD Committees of Agriculture and Natural Resource Chairs)



DATE: 3/19/16


Abstract: There is no single solution in how to sustainably develop South Dakota’s agriculture and regulate CAFO’s. This policy memo is only able to present a fraction of possible policy actions to be taken, but the analysis of the following three potential policy actions reveals that our state must engage in a thorough and multi-faceted effort to reduce the costs of CAFO’s so that they may be a positive long-term development for the state’s rural communities.  A combination of hard and soft approaches to reduce water pollution, implement emission control regulations and enhance local government/citizen involvement all represent appropriate lines of action which could be a part of the policy response to promote positive agricultural development and the health of our state.



CAFOs have a place in the future of South Dakota, wherein they have the potential to benefit the state and country at large. Yet these benefits do not come without costs, costs including livelihoods of small farmers, the health of South Dakota’s citizens and the health of South Dakota’s invaluable environments and natural resources. South Dakota must, today, decide how much of these costs citizens are willing accept. South Dakota must decide what regulations it is willing to impose to avoid unnecessary costs and to ensure benefits remain endogenous rather than exported to large corporations or abroad. The following note will briefly offer a case comparison from North Carolina, review the research on CAFOs economic impact and then present three potential policy actions, followed by an option-decision matrix consisting of the potential policy options.


CAFOs in North Carolina

North Carolina, its Eastern hog producing region in particular, offers an example of what effect the agricultural development of small-family farms into large, concentrated operations has on rural communities when minimal citizen and environmental interests are considered. Hog farms have received increasing national attention as community members in the coastal plain are left to deal with intense, acrid odor from the manure. Further, research suggests that these emissions are responsible for a decreased quality of life for surrounding communities and a host of health problems: mucosal irritation, respiratory ailments, nausea, mental stress and elevated blood pressure (Nicole, 2013). Amidst regulations, ground and surface water continue to experience damage as a result of spills, weather events and evidence that “all lagoons leach to some degree” (Nicole, 2013). Efforts to address these health disasters have been absent due to local and state health agencies’ lack of jurisdiction over CAFOs (Nicole, 2013).


CAFOs and Economic Development Are Not Synonymous

CAFOs are attractive for their perceived development and growth opportunities in rural economies that are hard-pressed for similar external investment. Contrary to assumptions, economists’ studies are inconclusive as to whether large farms are more economically efficient than smaller farms (SDSU). In constrast, it is there is much research contesting that CAFOs do not always increase the well-being of community members. One such important study in Iowa found in increase in regional food stamp use correlated with CAFO presence (Durrenberger and Thu, 1996). These clarifications are important not because the purpose of this policy proposal is to provide social and welfare policy suggestions directly, but because the following environmental policy suggestions will only help to prevent the degradation of community members’ lifestyles.


Policy Option 1: Soft and Hard Measures

A plethora of opportunities exist to increase and ensure the effectiveness of water pollutant control on CAFOs: incentive-based efforts, cap and trade systems and taxing programs present a range of viable options which can work together to capitalize on pollution reduction opportunities for the benefit of communities (Kleinman et al., 2012). Incentive systems offer a solution to producers unable to handle the financial burdens of pollution reduction. Financial support and voluntary conservation programs represent two optional facets of an incentive system (Collins, 2012).

Were CAFOs mandated to offer the proper information, an appropriate water-quality trading system could be implemented. The watershed pollution permits could very well prove to be the most fair, non-binding, market-based and economically efficient solution to effectively and light-handedly restore the state’s water sources (Office of Wastewater Mgmt., 2007).

In contrast, the hard-handed but not unreasonable approach to minimize negative externalities on water sources is water pollutant taxing. This logistically and politically difficult measure may be best reserved to where softer measures fail to reach objectives (Collins, 2012).


Policy Option 2: Emission Regulation

CAFOs effect on community air goes beyond acrid smell. Little attention has been given to their long list of emissions which has shown to negatively impact not only air quality, but also water, soil and biodiversity (Kim et al., 2013). Other states and many European countries enacted regulations to protect air quality and ensure best management practices – BMPs (Aneja et al, 2015). A number of BMPs exist to have dramatic reductions in costs to air quality, among them: manure slurry injection, solid-liquid separation systems, aerobic technology, lagoon covers and bio-filters (Aneja et al, 2015, SDSU). As cases in North Carolina, other CAFO containing states and even South Dakota show, the most obvious health, quality of life and economic costs currently arise from the emissions of CAFOs rather than watershed discharges. Farms do not have to be the major source of air pollution they represent today; the proper technology and regulations can reverse their nuisance into a source of solutions.


Policy Option 3: An Increased Capacity for Local Decision Making

Empowering and enhancing the utility of existing resources – those being local governments and community members – for CAFO regulation may prove to make political and economic sense in implementation. There are a host of negative externalities accounted for by other states’ regulations which South Dakota’s CAFO permit process does not consider (Centner and Alcorn, 2015). One of citizens’ most powerful tools for addressing these externalities include zoning and citing ordinances – a process citizens have been distanced from with the passing of HB 1140 (South Dakota). House Bill 1140 could be struck down to utilize citizens in the process of regulating agriculture and to provide them the right to express themselves in protecting the quality of their community.  Further, should an instance arise where state regulation and/or implementation prove ineffective so that leakage, over-application or some other threat to groundwater arises, it is critical that additional local controls and oversight for CAFOs reserve the right to be implemented (Centner and Alcorn, 2015). Local governments with increased autonomy also serve as invaluable testing grounds for the exploration of regulations to achieve environmental and economic goals (Glicksman, 2006). Localities and their citizens are savvy and dedicated: some of their CAFO-government interaction designs are certain to fail, but one may prove ingenious enough for statewide adoption.



As the future of South Dakota and its relationship to CAFOs moves forward, the need to create sustainable regulations is clear. The potential policy directions presented are viable and feasible actions, but they do not represent the single or best solutions to CAFO regulation. Rather, they indicate the need for a combination of such measures and others, in addition to an increase in state-wide discussion to responsibly address the future problems such agricultural development holds.


An Option-Decision Analysis of Policy Actions

Finally, the following is an analysis of the proposed policy directions measured against the option of no change in policy towards CAFOs. Measurements are based on a range of criteria likely to be important considerations in the political future of CAFO regulation. The analysis reveals that while taking no action scores disproportionately lower, the potential policy actions compare with somewhat similar positive scores – supporting the suggestion that a combination of such measures may prove the best approach.


  Political Feasibility Administrative and Technological Feasibility Social Benefits Environmental Benefits Economic Benefits Weighted Score
Criteria Weight 0.2 0.2 0.25 0.25 0.2
No Change in Policy 2 2 1 1 2 1.7
Soft and Hard Water Pollution Regulations 3 1 3 3 2 2.7
Emission Regulations 2 1 3 3 2 2.5
Increased Local Control 2 2 3 2 2 2.45


A note on the table’s scoring:

  • 1= Low feasibility, costs are greater than benefits
  • 2= Moderate feasibility, costs and benefits are equal
  • 3= High Feasibility, benefits are greater than costs











Works Cited:


Aneja, Viney Pal, William H. Schlesinger, and Saurabh P. Aneja. “Effects of intensively managed agriculture on the atmospheric environment.” EM: Air and Waste Management Association’s Magazine for Environmental Managers 65, no. June (2015): 24-30.

Centner, Terence J., and Jessica E. Alcorn. “Preemption of Local Governmental Ordinances Regulating Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations in the United States.” Environment and Pollution 4, no. 2 (2015): 66.

Durrenberger EP, Thu KM. The expansion of large scale hog farming in Iowa: The applicability of Goldschmidt’s findings fifty years later. Human Organization 55:409-415 (1996).

Glicksman, R. L. (2006). From cooperative to inoperative federalism: the perverse mutation of environmental law and policy. Wake Forest Law Review, 41, 719-803

Kim, B. F., L. I. Leastadius, and R. S. Lawrence. “Industrial food animal production in America: examining the impact of the Pew Commission’s priority recommendations.” Center for a Livable Future [Internet] (2013).

Kleinman, Peter, Kristen Saacke Blunk, Ray Bryant, Lou Saporito, Doug Beegle, Karl Czymmek, Quirine Ketterings, et al. “Managing Manure for Sustainable Livestock Production in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.” Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 67, no. 2 (March 1, 2012): 54A – 61A. doi:10.2489/jswc.67.2.54A.

Office of Wastewater Mgmt., Envtl. Prot. Agency, EPA 833-R-07-004, Water Quality Trading Toolkit for Permit Writers 1 (2007) http://www.epa.gov/npdes/pubs/wqtradingtoolkit.pdf.

Nicole, Wendee. “CAFOs and Environmental Justice: The Case of North Carolina.” Environmental Health Perspectives 121, no. 6 (June 2013): a182–89. doi:10.1289/ehp.121-a182.

SDSU College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences, “Livestock Development in South Dakota.” https://www.sdstate.edu/ds/news/upload/LivestockDevelopment-2.pdf

South Dakota Legislative Research Council, “House Bill No. 1140.” Ninety-first Sessions Leglislative Assembly, 2016. http://legis.sd.gov/docs/legsession/2016/Bills/HB1140P.pdf

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