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How a More Humane Economy Could Help Revive Rural America

Factory farming is terrible for animals and it's a disaster for rural America.

These days, it’s increasingly difficult to  and for more than one reason. The Great Recession hit America hard, but . Historically rural jobs, like , are dying out as more of them are automated, outsourced or deemed obsolete. But one reason for America’s struggling rural economy isn’t discussed nearly enough: factory farming. In addition to abusing and  each year, and wreaking havoc on the  of rural communities, .

Rural Americans are often sold a fairytale of trickle-down prosperity by state officials, who say that , benefit retail businesses, and enhance social services. Sometimes these agricultural projects are even developed in secret, like the one that sparked the recent  in Kansas. In reality, factory farms provide little, if any,  to rural America. Rather, factory farms almost always drive out smaller farms and the jobs they create.

Additionally, while smaller farms purchase feed, supplies, and equipment from local businesses, factory farms often  from outside the region, all while paying their workers low wages to perform one of the  and . Some slaughterhouse workers are  and have resorted to wearing diapers. Even worse, the injury rate for these workers is six times higher than the average for any other industry. In fact, Tyson Foods reportedly averages one worker limb amputation .

“When family farms give way to industrial-scale farms, rural communities depending on them ,” one farmer explained in an op-ed for the Kansas City Star. “As in a city, it is the difference between many small businesses and a few big box stores.” Meanwhile, 71 percent of farmers whose income relies solely on raising chickens live —and many farmers who find themselves working for corporations like Tyson live as modern-day serfs, not unlike my sharecropping great-grandfather.

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