One study determined that each CAFO in Missouri has lowered property values in its surrounding communities by an average total of $2.68 million.1 It is not possible to accurately extrapolate this value nationally due to the many differences between localities, but as a very rough indication of the magnitude of these costs, multiplying by 9,900 (the total number of US CAFOs as defined for the report) would yield a loss of about $26 billion.2
An Iowa study showed that proximity to a CAFO resulted in a decline in home value of 40%. This results in lower tax revenues for the county, while the CAFOs simultaneously require a drastic spending increase of county tax dollars. For example: additional staff at local schools that to deal with a new bilingual student base; more expensive upkeep of local roads due to heavy truck traffic; and increased healthcare costs due to increased levels of respiratory and gastrointestinal and other CAFO related illnesses. One Iowa community estimated that costs for gravel-road upkeep increased about 40% due to truck traffic to industrial hog confinements. The annual estimated cost of local road upkeep around a 20,000 hog confinement is $6,447 per mile. Another study in Missouri found that that the average loss of land value within three miles of a CAFO was $112/acre.3
Local property tax assessments were lowered on properties in Alabama, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota and Missouri by ten to thirty-five percent due to their close proximity to corporate hog CAFOs.4
CAFO’s also do not spend their money locally. Locally owned and controlled farms tend to buy their supplies and services nearby, therefore supporting many local businesses. This economic “multiplier” effect has been estimated at approximately seven dollars per dollar earned by the locally owned fann. CAFOs on the other hand purchase feed, supplies, and services from non-local suppliers either owned by the animal producer, or mandated by the producer. A Michigan study documented that local expenditures per hog were $67 by the small, locally owned farms and $46 by the larger, industrialized farms. CAFO operations with gross incomes in excess of $900,000 spend less than 20% locally, while farms with incomes under $100,000 spend 95% locally. As a result of the undesirable aspects of living close to CAFOs, including the odor, exposure to toxins, and polluted groundwater, hog confinements effectively preclude new businesses from relocating to a county. Studies have indicated that concentration and industrialization of agriculture have been associated with economic decline, both locally and regionally.5
Finally, CAFOs generate social discord. From 1980 to 2003, the ten to fifteen counties in Iowa with the largest reduction in population were also counties with the largest number of hog confinements. Davis County, Iowa, for example, has seen its hog population grow from about 10,000 head to about 150,000-200,000 head within ten years. In addition to noxious odors affecting citizens living close to CAFOS, the factory farm proliferation has caused social disruption: once amicable neighbors and cooperating farmers have turned against one another over issues stemming from CAFOs.6
1 William J. Weida. The CAFO: Implications for Rural Economies in the US. The Global Resource Action Center for the Environment. (February 24, 2004).
2 Doug Gurian-Sherman. CAFOs Uncovered: The Untold Cost of Confined Animal Feeding Operations. Union of Concerned Scientists at 6 (April 2008).
3 William J. Weida. The CAFO: Implications for Rural Economies in the US. The Global Resource Action Center for the Environment. (February 24, 2004); Dooho Park. Rural Communities and Animal Feeding Operations, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Colorado State University, Ft. Collins, CO. (1998).
6 Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations: Assessment of Impacts on Health, Local Economies, and the Environment with Suggested Alternatives. Institute of Science, Technology and Public Policy at 8.