How Rural Wisconsin Communities Are Fighting Back Against Big Ag's "Hog Factories"

Why residents are taking on industrial meat production.

Maximillian Alvarez

Residents throughout Polk and Burnett Counties in Wisconsin have posted signs in opposition to "concetrated animal feeding operations." Hannah Faris

Over the summer, Max traveled to Wisconsin to report on a crucial struggle that has been largely ignored by corporate media. Residents of rural Polk, Burnett, and Crawford counties in western Wisconsin have been embroiled in battles over the proposed construction of industrial hog factories” in their communities, which would collectively house roughly 34,000 hogs. These concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) would also produce millions and millions of gallons of liquid manure a year, and residents fear they could cause irreversible damage to their land, air, water, property values, and ways of life. 

What’s happening in Wisconsin is part of a larger historical shift that has seen Big Agriculture and factory farming take over an industry that used to be dominated by small and mid-sized farms. The government-aided rise of industrial agriculture and meat production has pushed the independent farmers who still remain in operation today to the brink of extinction. As part of a special collaboration between The Real News Network and In These Times magazine for The Wisconsin Idea,” Max, Cameron Granadino (TRNN), and Hannah Faris (In These Times) went 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. You can watch their full documentary report here.

In this special Working People episode, we follow up on the reporting Max, Granadino, and Faris did over the summer and speak with a panel of folks who were involved with producing and publishing those reports. We also update listeners on the ongoing struggles in Polk, Burnett, and Crawford counties to halt — or, at least, adequately regulate — the proposed CAFOs. Guests on this panel include: Forest Jahnke, Program Coordinator for the Crawford Stewardship Project; Lisa Doerr, an independent hay farmer & resident of Polk County; Hannah Faris, associate editor of The Wisconsin Idea” at In These Times; and Maeve Conran, Program Director for Free Speech TV and host of Just Solutions.

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Featured Music (all songs sourced from the Free Music Archive: freemu​si​carchive​.org)

  • Jules Taylor, Working People Theme Song”
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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.

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