Being in agriculture is a tough business. In 1950 it took 12 calves to buy a new pickup.
In 1980 it took approximately 23 calves to buy a pickup and in 2011 it was approximately 52 calves to buy a new pickup. To survive we have either taken off-the-farm jobs or gotten bigger. Either way we have had to work harder and longer to keep even.
In spite of this and because of our passion for what we do, we keep producing food. For most of us, including myself, the most frustrating part is that to produce this food we have to keep fighting more and more battles with the EPA, Corps of Engineers and various environmental groups like PETA and HSUS. The latest is Jordan et al and Judge Patrick.
In his ruling, Judge Patrick first stated that the right-to-farm law did not apply in this case. The facts are that Edwin Hostetler has a small cow-calf operation and raises hay. It is a "family" operation that decided to add another class of livestock. Chickens are, by Colorado law, considered livestock. If the right-to-farm law does not apply in this scenario then it will never protect any livestock producer or, for that matter, anyone in agriculture that wishes to switch from one crop to another.
Secondly Judge Patrick stated that the public health and safety was in jeopardy. There are five (not 37 as reported) health-related complaints. These are all contributed with no sound medical proof, only someone saying "my asthma is worse" or "my abscessed tooth is from chicken feathers." If you tell yourself something long enough it becomes fact?
West Slope Layers is as clean, or cleaner, than any agricultural enterprise in this county. You owe it to yourself to go look at it. This operation has 15,000 egg-laying chickens. Foster Farms houses are typically 75,000 birds each and we all drive by them. They do not smell or have clouds of dust hanging over them. The attorney for West Slope Layers asked Judge Patrick to visit the operation but the plaintiffs were opposed (I wonder why?) and Judge Patrick chose to keep his chair polished instead of visiting the facility.
Delta County Farm Bureau has been very concerned about this litigation from the beginning. Delta County Farm Bureau is a grassroots organization that represents 235 local producer members from all phases of agriculture. On Oct. 12 we hosted a fundraiser to assist with the ongoing legal battle. We had 400 local individuals and businesses make cash contributions of $18,000 to the cause. Of course, the opposition to the chicken house made multiple harassing and threatening calls to individuals from county and state Farm Bureau, and to local businesses that joined in sponsoring this fundraiser, to try to stop this event. The Delta County Livestock Association and Black Mesa Cattlewomen have also come out in support of livestock producers in general and the Hostetlers in particular. At the Delta County Board of Commissioners hearing on Sept. 12, 2012, petitions with over 500 signatures supporting West Slope Layers was presented. This should send the message that Delta County citizens support agriculture and the Hostetlers yet some media want you to believe that the majority of Delta County is opposed to the West Slope Layers. Once again, these news sources are more concerned about pushing their liberal agenda than fair and accurate reporting.