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Law-abiding livestock should be approved

Americans love their bacon. But to enjoy it, someone is going to be in the pork business.

Agweek has long held that rural North Dakota and the Upper Midwest should produce and finish to market weight more livestock — including pigs — to use and add value to the region’s relatively affordable feed supply. If state health laws allow the production of pigs on private land, the farming should be allowed. Livestock production is a logical option when farmers are young and land costs are high.

One sow project near Buffalo, N.D., has been approved by the North Dakota Department of Health and is awaiting a decision in the North Dakota Supreme Court. Another near Devils Lake is pending. South Dakota is going through the process near Madison and Canton.

We withhold support for individual projects until it’s clear they comply with laws.

Critics who simply don’t want to smell pig manure must accept that they live in an agricultural area. That said, we urge legislators and regulators to keep updating the rules. Remember, these are the same officials we trust to ensure our drinking water quality and restaurant cleanliness and to enforce the health and safety of our hospitals.

Livestock can add dimes to the price of a bushel of grain and has a multiplier effect in the economy. A 2015 report in Indiana showed that state’s pig production had an economic multiplier effect of 1.36. If the same were true in North Dakota, the current sales of $50.3 million in 2012 means an extra $18 million in related economic activity. Those dollars add strength and diversity to economies in towns like Devils Lake and Buffalo.

In addition, the manure from livestock — including that from pigs — can improve the soil and thus local economies. If the animals aren’t raised here, economies somewhere else will see those benefits.

It’s well to remember that one of North Dakota’s advantages for the pig breeding industry is that so few animals are raised here. The last Census of Agriculture showed North Dakota has 17 farms (among 53 counties) with more than 1,000 pigs, while Minnesota had 1,548 of those farms. North Dakota has one-fourth the pigs it had nearly 50 years ago when there were fewer rules and fewer livestock critics.

We can do more, safely and profitably, for farmers and communities.

We urge the NIMBYs — the “notin-my-backyard” critics — to take a fresh look at how their communities and states can benefit with new or expanded animal agriculture businesses and jobs, without endangering public safety.