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Organic Consumers Association

Cow Country: The Rise of the CAFO in Idaho

On a cool June day, Dean Dimond looked out from his back porch at a field of green wheat bending in the wind. Dimond lives on and farms a patch of land in the Magic Valley just north of Jerome. A mile or so beyond is Minidoka, site of the former Japanese internment camp where the National Park Service is building a memorial.

Dimond is, by any measure, an enormous man, with frying pan-sized hands that engulf yours in a handshake. He makes his living growing hay and corn for the dairies that populate this area where he has lived nearly all his life. It's a good place for this kind of farming. Three counties in the Magic Valley--Jerome, Gooding and Twin Falls--have the highest concentration of dairies in the state.

So you wouldn't expect Dimond--a self-described staunch Republican--to side with a movement to slow and even stop the expansion of large dairies. But as he looks over the field just feet from his back door, the contradiction begins to make sense.

Over the last two decades, the vision of a dairy has morphed from an idyllic setting to an industrialized, Henry Ford-like factory--the concentrated animal feeding operation. Under the logic of economies of scale, dairies and feedlots grew into expansive operations able to hold tens of thousands of animals.

The wheat field behind Dimond is not his, though you could toss a rock from the porch into its stalks. It belongs to South View Dairy, which for the last three years has fought to construct a 13,000-head feedlot on 240 acres one mile upwind of Minidoka and next to Dimond's home.

"There are a lot of good dairymen out there," said Dimond. "The dairy industry has been really good for this area. There are some that try to take care of their neighbors. But these guys just wanted to come in and build this mega-facility."


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