Livestock Resource Page

Marvin Shirley on farm (2)

Promoting Independent, Family-Owned Livestock Farms

We oppose the market concentration & consolidation that has replaced independent family livestock farms with corporate-controlled, industrial-scale facilities; state & local policies should be refocused to support & promote independent, locally-owned family livestock farms.

  • Since 1970, Iowa has lost over 90 percent of its independent family hog farms.
  • Just four U.S. companies process 85 percent of cattle, 74 percent of hogs, and 54 percent of chickens.
  • Contract livestock farming has resulted in unfair treatment of farmers and profits that flow to the out-of-state corporations that own the animals.
  • Industrial-scale CAFOs pose significant infrastructure costs and quality of life issues for Iowa communities.


The growth of local & regional food systems in Iowa has created an exciting opportunity to rebuild Iowa’s independent family livestock farms. Beginning livestock farmers selling to local markets have contributed positively to the quality and diversity of livestock production in Iowa, while supporting rural economies, the environment, and rural quality of life. However, independent family livestock farms continue to face many of the same systemic challenges with market access and anti-competitive practices that caused so many of Iowa’s farm families to abandon livestock production over the past three decades.

Many of the industrial-scale facilities that replaced family livestock farms are neither economically nor ecologically sustainable. Often constructed to house animals owned by out-of-state corporations, many industrial CAFOs see the bulk of their profits leaving the state, while the local contract farmer retains the majority of the economic risk. In addition, the rural communities where the facilities are sited face significant unreimbursed environmental, public health, and infrastructure costs.

In the 2015-2016 legislative session, IFU supported legislation to end the “pollution control device” property tax exemption for large CAFO manure storage facilities (SSB 1266 and HF 483). The manure pit tax exemption is an out-dated and unnecessary tax preference for industrial-scale livestock facilities that contributes to an uneven playing field for independent family livestock farms and leaves rural communities with less money to balance budgets and pay for the infrastructure, environmental, and public health costs directly associated with those facilities.

The Senate Ways & Means subcommittee held a hearing on the bill and voted to approve it, but no further action was taken during the remainder of the session.

You can read IFU’s testimony in support of the SSB 1266 here.

Iowa Farmers Union
PO Box 1883 Ames, IA 50010-1883
[email protected]