To the editor:
Like many Iowans, I was dumbfounded to read Ron Prestage citing racism as the reason his giant packing plant was rejected by Mason City residents and their responsive city council. In other media, he even described opponents of the plant as “racist kooks.”
That’s quite a claim coming from an industry built on the sweat, blood and broken bodies of economically distressed immigrants and refugees fleeing brutal civil war and persecution.
It is through the exploitation of immigrants’ bodies, their poverty and desperation, that the meat packing industry, and the livestock confinements (CAFOs) that supply it, have created such a profitable business model.
The industry garners billions of dollars yearly by using underpaid immigrant labor to churn out cheap meat for what is increasingly an export market. As a Southerner in the turkey business, Mr. Prestage is surely well aware of the role impoverished African Americans played in the development of the poultry industry: a role that has shifted to immigrants, as they are more disadvantaged and less likely to unionize.
The whole enterprise, from CAFO to kill floor, is based on the domination and exploitation of immigrants and people of color. The charge of racism is an outlandishly hypocritical tactic meant muddle the issue and silence opposition.
Stacy Hartmann, Minburn
Dallas County Farmers and Neighbors