New Report Calls Out Iowa's Unequal Hog Farming Industry

According to a just-released report from Food & Water Watch, Iowa's increasingly-consolidated hog industry is causing damage to the state's rural communities, as large-scale factory farming operations expand at the expense of small or family-owned enterprises.

The report is the second installment in a series from the environmental advocacy group investigating the detrimental effects of corporate food monopolies on "consumers, rural communities and farmers." For its analysis, Food & Water Watch looked at data from the USDA Census of Agriculture, spanning over the last 35 years, to examine the economic repercussions of Iowa's hog industry across different counties.

According to the study, Iowa is producing more hogs today than ever before — despite having fewer farms. The reason? Hog farming has consolidated, meaning that factory hog farms have expanded while pushing out smaller operations: Specifically, the study notes that the state lost almost 90% of its hog farms between 1982 and 2017.

How can this alarming pattern be stopped?

One of the most notable findings in the report is the economic toll that these large-scale, corporate enterprises have had on their communities. As the report explained, the expansion of factory farming in the hog industry has not improved the economic well-being of Iowa's rural counties. Rather, since 1982, counties where factory farming expanded actually saw a decrease in both the median household income and the total number of jobs. Additionally, population levels in these specific counties declined at double the rate of all the state's rural counties.

"Our centralized, corporate-controlled food system was built to funnel local resources into Wall Street hands, at the expense of local economies, independent family farms, consumer prices and our environment," said Food & Water Watch Research Director Amanda Starbuck, per Food & Water Watch. "Nowhere is this more obvious than with Iowa's hog bosses."

According to Starbuck, immediate intervention is required to halt the detrimental economic effects of Iowa's consolidated hog industry. She said, "To fix this, Iowa legislators must enact a moratorium on new and expanding factory farms. And President Biden must ban new and expanding factory farms through passage of the Farm System Reform Act, restore supply management in the 2023 Farm Bill and improve antitrust oversight and enforcement."