Over the past few decades, rural America has been changed dramatically by the industrialization of livestock and poultry farms. Smaller traditional family farms have been replaced by concentrated animal feeding operations, called CAFOs or factory farms, which confine large numbers of animals under stressful, crowded conditions, on small areas of land.
In a sustainable farming system, a healthy balance exists between the animals and the land. Manure is used to replenish the nutrients removed from the soil by the crops that are harvested and fed to the animals. In contrast, factory farms produce vast amounts of manure that can exceed the needs of the surrounding land. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, viruses, E. coli, Salmonella, parasites, antibiotics, hormones, nitrate, hydrogen sulfide, and ammonia are some of the substances from factory farms impacting the health of rural communities, workers and the environment.
Because industrial agriculture is still treated as farming, rather than industry, it has been able to take advantage of existing farming exemptions. Agribusiness has also used its political influence to push for legislation at the state level to remove what little local control rural communities had over the factory farm industry. Community Rights initiatives offer a way for people in rural communities to assert their right to local decision making.