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Farm tour: antidote to mega-agriculture

Thank you for your in-depth coverage of the human and environmental costs of corporate agriculture as practiced by the American industrial agribusiness complex ("Big pig," by Bob Geary and Lisa Sorg, cover story, April 4). It is highly likely that if our government agencies forced Smithfield to bear the full costs of its hog production and slaughter practices—restoring degraded water resources, eliminating the ammonia and other volatile gases that pollute the air, paying for the health care workers and the people who live around its facilities require as a result of the company's activities—the company would cease to be in business. Indeed, some estimates indicate that if Smithfield's wastewater discharges had to meet the treatment standards imposed on municipal wastewater facilities, it would wipe out the company's profits on its $11 billion in sales. But instead, the public bears those costs, and they far exceed the savings we get from buying spare ribs at $1.99 a pound.

There is a hopeful alternative to corporate mega-agriculture, and we are fortunate in the Triangle to be able to see it up close. North Carolina features hundreds of small family farms that are farming successfully, without public subsidies, and simultaneously enriching the soil on which we all depend. This is the inspiring face of North Carolina agriculture.

On this year's Piedmont Farm Tour, you can visit farms practicing organic methods of vegetable, beef, poultry and pork production that are good for the farmer, good for the consumer and good for the land. The tour runs April 21-22. The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association provides education for farmers and consumers about the benefits of local and organic agriculture, and there is more information at our Web site, www.carolinafarmstewards.org.

Roland McReynolds, Executive Director
Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, Pittsboro

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