Idaho’s Got Milk, Meat, Noxious Environmental Problems

Beef and dairy factory farms have turned the Potato State into the land of milk and cow manure.

Idaho’s Got Milk, Meat, Noxious Environmental Problems

Aerial view of Rock Creek Dairy in Filer, Idaho.

“When I moved to Idaho I had this image in my mind of a cow on an emerald green pasture,” relates Alma Hasse, 51, a transplanted Californian who in May 2005 purchased what she and her husband viewed as their dream retirement farm—a spread of land in the western part of the state. “What we didn’t know was that over the ridge was a 7,500-head Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation,” she continues. During the first few days in their new home Alma and hubby were mystified by the stench that permeated their property. A friendly neighbor laughed when Hasse questioned her about the foul odor—then alerted her to the source of the problem. “My heart sank in my chest,” she says. “We had been in Idaho long enough that I knew what a CAFO was and I did not want to be near one.”

Today, Hasse is the executive director of ICARE (Idaho Concerned Area Residents for the Environment), a non-profit “pro-agriculture organization that promotes safe, healthy, affordable food … and the economic viability and sustainability of our rural communities and farms.” As a former card-carrying Republican who twice voted for George W. Bush, she never imagined herself as an environmental advocate. “I thought when I moved to Idaho that I was going to be a pig in a blanket,” referring to the fact that Idaho is an overwhelmingly “red” state. “But when I moved here I thought, ‘Oh, my God. I’ve landed on an alien planet.’”

Hasse’s transformation from die-hard Republican to founder of ICARE didn’t take place overnight. In February 2006 an overloaded triple tractor trailer spilled potato processing waste on the road adjacent to her property. As it turns out, the truck was en route from Ore-Ida’s production facility in Ontario, Oregon, to her neighbor’s feed lot—the waste slated to be used as feed for his cattle.

“I saw the spill and walked outside and the smell was so horrific it just about knocked me over,” she recalls. Figuring that anything that smells that bad can’t be good for you, she complained to the Idaho State Department of Agriculture (ISDA). Word of her complaint got back to the CAFO owner, who sent a loader to scrape the waste off the road, and then proceeded to dump it on the Hasse’s property. The incident prompted her to begin investigating the practices of CAFOs across the state, and she soon decided to make it her mission to raise awareness about the impact of factory farms on both the environment and small family farmers.

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