AgDM newsletter article, January 1998

What rural Iowans think about hogs

Dermot HayesBy Dermot Hayes, Professor of Economics, 515.294.6185,

There is concern in rural Iowa about changes taking place in Iowa’s pork industry. Hard evidence of the opinions of rural Iowans about these issues, as well as how these opinions were formed, has been missing from this debate.

A telephone survey was conducted of Iowans 18 years of age and older who are living in rural areas or in town of less than 2,500 people. A total of 1,000 people were interviewed. Each person was asked how he or she felt (agree or disagree) about various aspects of the pork industry.

Money for odor

Survey respondents were asked if they would be willing to accept an annual payment $75 to $4,000 per year) to have a large hog facility (1,000, 2,000, or 5,000 head fishisher) located close to their resident (one-eight, one-half, one or two miles).

Would accept payment

Of the 1,000 respondents, about 25 percent answered “yes” to the question. The amount of compensation needed differed depending on the size of the facility and the distance the individual’s residence is located from the hog facility. As one would expect, the minimum compensation required for having a facility located one-eighth of a mile away is much higher than if the facility is further away. Likewise, larger operations (5,000 finisher size) require more compensation than smaller ones. The respondents appear to be more concerned with the distance of these facilities from his/her home rather than the size, although the size is clearly of some concern as well.

Would not accept payment

Of the 75 percent who answered “no,” a follow-up question was asked t find out why they answered “no.” they were asked to identify one of the three reasons for their “no” answer. The reasons are shown below with the percent of responses shown in parentheses.

These responses show that many rural Iowans reject the idea that they can or should be compensated in their exchange for locating large hog facilities near their home. They are unwilling to consider the issue in terms of a tradeoff of money for the inconvenience of having such a neighbor.         

Survey conclusions

Based on the survey results, we came to seven conclusions on how Iowans feel about the hog industry. Each of the bulleted statements reflects how Iowans responded to specific survey questions.

1.   The average rural Iowan is supportive of an Iowa based hog industry. They believe:

2.  Iowans realize Iowa’s pork industry needs to change and modernize. They believe:


3.  Iowans are uncomfortable with the changes taking place. They believe:

4.  Iowans want some regulatory changes to deal with their concerns. They believe:

5.  Iowans favor pork production as long as it is produced by people they know who follow environmentally-safe management practices. They believe:

6.      Iowans believe that, if properly managed, large pork production facilities can protect the environment.

7.      Iowans are less opposed to large facilities if they believe over-regulation will lead to packing plant closings, which will hurt family farmers.


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