Rebranding CAFOs as PFOs Is Corporate BS

CAFOs — Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations — are nightmarish creatures of industrial agribusiness.

A decade ago, Oklahoma’s countryside was literally infested with 626 massively polluting CAFOs — Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. These are nightmarish creatures of industrial agribusiness, each one caging thousands of chickens, hogs or cattle in huge concrete and steel buildings and producing rivers of excrement. Imagine living next to one!

But — Hallelujah — responding to the outrage of rural neighbors, environmentalists and animal rights advocates, Oklahoma’s political honchos have since stepped in with regulations to eliminate 90% of those CAFOs. Wow! How’d they do that?

The old-fashioned way: political fraud. At the behest of chicken lobbyists for factory farm giants like Tyson Foods, state lawmakers — hocus-pocus! — let CAFOs rebrand themselves as PFOs, “Poultry Feeding Operations.” It’s the same old stink by a new name — only worse, for the state’s PFO designation let’s corporate profiteers get away with providing fewer protections for Oklahoma communities they subject to the overwhelming stench, contamination, flies, disease and other nasties inherent in caging more than 300,000 birds at a time in one spot.

For example, merely switching a factory’s registration from a federal CAFO to a state PFO lets these industrial polluters locate right across the road from family homes, bringing such constant odor, debris and disease that people can’t open their windows or play in their yard. The PFO scheme also eliminates a requirement that neighbors have to be notified when a chicken factory proposes to locate next door, and state officials have even outlawed legal protests against their rubber stamping of water permits for these polluters.

Here’s a solution: Require that all politicos who took chicken campaign cash and voted for the PFO scam must have one installed next to their homes. And why not put one next door to the Capitol building, too? Share the stink!

Why You Were Not Invited to Davos

Once again, my invitation to the big shindig in Davos never arrived. Davos is the posh resort village in the Swiss Alps where some 3,000 global power elites gather every January for a weeklong, corporate-funded schmooze-and-booze fest to solve the world’s problems.

You and I are never invited to this confab, grandiosely titled “World Economic Forum.” That’s because (1) we’re not corporate or governmental VIPs, and (2) we might raise rude questions like, “Who the hell elected you plutocratic know-nothings and screw-ups to solve world problems — which you largely created?” See? We the People can’t be trusted to be polite.

Indeed, the theme of this year’s forum is, “How Can We Rebuild Trust?” By “we,” they mean the Davos clique itself — the Wall Street bankers, Silicon Valley speculators, various oligarchs, industrial barons, billionaire campaign donors, labor abusers, war mongers, mass polluters, high-tech futurists and other architects of… well, the mess we’re in.

In our country, only about 10% say democracy is working for most Americans today, with the powers that be not even trying to serve what the majority believes in, wants and needs. Economic fairness, social justice and equal opportunity — our society’s fundamental, unifying values — are being trampled by the greed of moneyed elites and the fear and hatred of small-minded ideological extremists. They squabble over even keeping our government operating and fritter away their time and credibility on crap that undermines public trust.

So, no, Davos crowd, you cannot “rebuild trust,” for no one can trust you. You could gain a real measure of credibility if your elite forum would do something truly significant for democracy, like pushing through a reform to take corporate money out of our politics. That would make Davos historic. Otherwise, you’re just partying… and stroking your egos.

Jim Hightower