Date of this Version
The livestock industry has been restructuring during the past several decades, resulting in fewer and larger farms as well as some vertical integration. One particular livestock sector, hogs, has received much attention in Nebraska during the past year. An increase in the applications for new hog confinement facilities has caused concern for some rural residents. Some are worried about environmental damage, while others are concerned about economic implications for smaller farms. However, supporters of these facilities point to additional jobs and other economic benefits they can bring to a community. Given these issues, how do rural Nebraskans feel about large-scale pork production facilities? What do they feel are the economic, environmental and social impacts of these operations? Have they directly experienced any negative effects of livestock production?
This report details results of 4,196 responses to the 1998 Nebraska Rural Poll, the third annual effort to take the pulse of rural Nebraskans. Respondents were asked a series of questions about pork production including: their concerns regarding various locations of large-scale facilities, their perceptions about the impacts these facilities have, and if they have experienced any negative effects of livestock production. Comparisons have been made among different subgroups of respondents, e.g., comparisons by community size, region, age, occupation, etc. Based on these analyses, some key findings emerged:
• Rural Nebraskans become increasingly concerned about the development of large-scale pork production facilities as these proposed developments approach their residences. While 38% of the respondents were very concerned about the development of these facilities in Nebraska, this increased to 49% when the facilities would be within their local community and 69% when they would be within a mile of their residence.
• Over one-half of rural Nebraskans agree that smaller pork production facilities are better than large-scale facilities for both the state and local economy. Approximately fifty-seven percent of the respondents agreed with these two statements. Conversely, only 12% thought larger facilities were better for the state’s economy, and 16% thought the larger facilities were better for the local economy.
• The majority of rural Nebraskans are concerned about the environmental impacts of pork production facilities. Fifty-four percent agreed that even if properly managed, large-scale pork production facilities damage the environment. And almost three-quarters of the respondents (73%) agreed that all hog operations should be monitored for proper treatment and disposal of wastes. Seventeen percent agreed that only large operations should be monitored.
• Rural Nebraskans have mixed opinions on the desirability of pork production. Thirty-six percent of the respondents agreed that it is better to have some pork production and some odor problems in their community. However, almost an identical proportion (35%) agreed that it is better to have no pork production and no odor problems in their community. Thirty percent were undecided.
• A majority of rural Nebraskans feel that large-scale facilities owned by local farmers are better for their community than large facilities owned by outside investors. Seventy-nine percent of the respondents agreed that large-scale facilities owned by local farmers are better for the community than large-scale facilities owned by outside investors. Only four percent agreed with the opposing view, that large-scale facilities owned by outside investors are better than those owned by local farmers.
• Over one-half of rural Nebraskans were undecided about the effects of the location of large-scale pork production facilities in a community on its social relations. Fifty-two percent were undecided regarding the effect these large facilities have on a community’s social relations. Thirty-nine percent thought these facilities would diminish social relations in the community.
• Over one-half of rural Nebraskans agreed that if large-scale pork production facilities locate in a community, market access for smaller farms will decline. Fifty-four percent of the respondents agreed with this statement, while thirty-four percent were undecided. Only thirteen percent agreed that market access for smaller farms would increase if these facilities locate in a community.
• Some rural Nebraskans are more concerned than others about large-scale pork production facilities. In general, there was considerable concern expressed about largescale pork production facilities across all types of respondents to the 1998 Nebraska Rural Poll. However, the level of concern tended to increase with the age of the respondent; and tended to be higher (a) among those living in smaller communities and in Northeast Nebraska, and (b) among males, those with lower incomes and lower educational levels, and farmers/ranchers.
• The majority of rural Nebraskans either didn’t know or said they had not directly experienced the following as a result of livestock production: high nitrates in drinking water supply, contamination of local surface water, unacceptable dust levels, and unacceptable noise levels. However, the majority of respondents stated they had experienced at least a minor level of unacceptable odor. Sixty-nine percent of the respondents didn’t know or hadn’t experienced high nitrates and sixty-eight percent didn’t know or hadn’t experienced surface water contamination. The proportions responding either “don’t know” or “none” for unacceptable dust and unacceptable noise were 55% and 71%, respectively. However, sixty-four percent had experienced at least a minor level of unacceptable odor as a result of livestock production.