Documentary: Factory Farms Pose an 'Existential Threat' for Rural Wisconsin Communities

Big Agriculture and the factory farming industry are taking over more of the US landscape and farming economy every year. But these rural communities in Wisconsin are fighting back.

Maximillian Alvarez, Cameron Granadino and Hannah Faris

Lisa Doerr, a small-scale hay farmer in Polk County, Wis., describes the hazardous effects of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) Cameron Granadino/The Real News Network

Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on The Real News Network.

The rural landscape in the US is changing drastically: The days of the independent family farm have given way to industrial agriculture and factory animal farms. In states around the country, from Iowa and Minnesota to North Carolina, the expansion of Big Agriculture and the factory farming industry has dramatically altered local economies and communities, using up communal resources while posing serious threats to public health and the environment. Far from halting this trend, governments at the state and federal level have worked with powerful industry groups for years to incentivize large-scale farming operations and to make it increasingly difficult for local governments to adequately regulate these operations. But resistance from within rural communities, stretching across political lines, is mounting.

At this very moment, farmers, residents, and environmental advocates in three rural counties in Wisconsin — Polk, Burnett, and Crawford — are engaged in a battle to protect their communities against the construction of two proposed concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), which would collectively house roughly 34,000 hogs. Residents fear that the millions upon millions of gallons of liquid manure produced by these CAFOs every year, along with their many other impacts, could cause irreversible damage to their land, air, water, property values, and ways of life. As part of a special collaboration with In These Times magazine for The Wisconsin Idea,” TRNN Editor-in-Chief Maximillian Alvarez traveled with Cameron Granadino (TRNN) and Hannah Faris (In These Times) to Crawford, Polk, and Burnett counties to speak with residents about their concerns and about their struggles to defend themselves against Big Agriculture and the factory farming industry.

Pre-Production: Maximillian Alvarez, Simon Davis-Cohen, Hannah Faris, Cameron Granadino

Studio: Cameron Granadino, Stephen Frank

Post-Production: Cameron Granadino, Stephen Frank, Kayla Rivara

Editors Note: The Real News (TRNN) is a nonprofit, viewer-supported daily video-news and documentary service. TRNN makes media connecting you to the movements, people, and perspectives that are advancing the cause of a more just, equal, and livable planet.

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Maximillian Alvarez is a writer and editor based in Baltimore and the host of Working People, a podcast by, for, and about the working class today.” His work has been featured in venues like In These Times, The Nation, The Baffler, Current Affairs, and The New Republic.

Cameron Granadino is a researcher, camera operator, and editor for The Real News Network. Cameron focuses on prisoners rights and grassroots organizing in Baltimore, MD. @cam_granadino

Hannah Faris is associate editor at The Wisconsin Idea, an independent reporting project of People’s Action Institute, Citizen Action of Wisconsin Education Fund and In These Times.


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