Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

April 24, 2020

Smithfield and our troubled future

Filed under: Counterpunch,COVID-19,farming — louisproyect @ 12:11 pm


On April 15th, Smithfield closed down its pork factory in Sioux Falls, South Dakota after 640 employees became sick from COVID-19. They constitute 44 percent of all COVID-19 cases in the state, making it the epicenter of the pandemic locally.

Joseph W. Luter founded the company in 1936. Like most industrial meat-producing companies, Smithfield became infamous for CAFO, the initials for concentrated animal feeding operation. Poultry farms were the first to convert operations to CAFO in the 1950s, followed by beef and pork in the ensuing decades. Smithfield’s flagship operation was Tar Heel, North Carolina, which processed 32,000 pigs a day. Given the highly concentrated nature of this mode of production, disposing of waste products is a chore for management. Pig excrement tends to follow the path of least resistance, however. It flows directly into the rivers and lakes of the states that house CAFO-type operations.

In 2019, Hurricane Florence struck North Carolina. In Duplin County, CAFOs produce twice as much pig urine and feces as all the toilets in New York City. Most of it ends up in hog “lagoons”, the open-air pits clustered in the area hardest hit by Hurricane Florence. It caused overflows that carried E. coli, salmonella, cryptosporidium, and other harmful bacteria into North Carolina waters. Even when there are no hurricanes, there is still extensive water pollution since the lagoons seep into groundwater that then pollutes rivers and lakes.

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  1. I reiterate that the only solution for all these problems is to reduce human population, not only in the industrialised countries (something that’s already happening with vengeance) but also in the third world.

    Comment by Riccardo Pusceddu — April 24, 2020 @ 3:27 pm

  2. Louis — I really don’t see how most of China’s “investments” (most of them really loans) in Africa can be called progressive. Most of them were exploitative, in my opinion. Because these countries are so poor they had to put up huge amounts of real estate or other hard property as collateral. We all have seen what happened in Sri Lanka when they couldn’t pay back their loan to China, which now has a free 99 year lease on their main port. Also, most of these deals do not meet up to international disclosure standards about the terms and such. In addition, fraud and abuse have been massively rampant in these deals. Michael Gerson of the Washington Post had an article on this just a few days ago. With the resulting effects of this virus, it’s clear that many African countries will now have no hope of any sort of paying back the money they owe to China so they are going to get screwed like Sri Lanka. To be sure, the politicians in these various countries share some blame. But, as we all know, when one is desperate for money, you’ll engage in activities that aren’t in your long term best interest, it’s human nature. China has taken advantage of this like a classic predator. Anyway, we’ll see how it goes but I’m afraid many countries that engaged in these deals with China are going to be in a very bad way in the not so distant future. We’ll see….

    Comment by Charlie Trew — April 24, 2020 @ 6:29 pm

  3. Good job, Louis, excellent application of your talents. I especially like the ending because it is just like something I’d write!

    Comment by manuelgarciajr — April 25, 2020 @ 10:24 pm

  4. “….one of the necessary accompaniments of capitalism in a democracy is political corruption; and one of the consequences of civic administration by ignorant and vicious politicians, is that preventable diseases kill off half our population.”

    Upton Sinclair –“The Jungle”

    A copyright free Gutenburg Press version of the whole book can be downloaded from:-

    Comment by prianikoff — April 26, 2020 @ 9:12 am

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