The Swine Republic: Struggles with the Truth about Agriculture and Water Quality | Chris Jones | Foreword by Tom Philpott | $29.99 | 400p | 9781948509404 | Release: June 2023 | Order Early for a signed copy
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“Truly brilliant—new ways of thinking about stuff that’s right in front of us. I guarantee this will make you see not just the Midwest but the whole world considerably differently.”—Bill McKibben, author, The End of Nature
“Chris Jones is one of those academics who knows a lot, can’t lie, and has a storyteller’s gift that first grabs your attention and then your soul. The Swine Republic‘s fact-filled essays shine a clear, revealing light on Big Ag’s many dirty water secrets, baloney-filled soil conservation programs, and the well-funded political muscle that keeps all in place both in Iowa and in the U.S. His inarguable numbers, keen eye, and hacksaw wit make you stand up and shout, ‘Let’s change this!'”—Alan Guebert, Farm and Food File
“It takes guts for Chris Jones to confront the pollution of our rivers and lakes by the agrochemical complex. Somebody has to, and Jones does in this collection of essays. Calling out Iowa’s disregard for the water and soil that make the place what it is.”—Art Cullen, editor, of the Storm Lake Times Pilot and winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for editorials on Iowa surface water pollution
“Chris Jones is a witty and out-of-the-box scientist whose explosive book exposes the industrial agriculture complex and ‘cropaganda’ that is behind the destruction of the once beautiful waters of Iowa, a state that increasingly exports its row crop and animal waste all the way down the Mississippi contributing to the Dead Zone in the Gulf. A very entertaining and important read.”—David Thoreson, Iowa author and water quality advocate
Interested in the truth about Iowa and the Midwest’s water quality? You won’t get it from Iowa’s agricultural and political leaders.
Among midwestern Corn Belt states, Iowa contains some of the world’s most productive farmland; the state frequently tops all others in harvested totals of corn and soybeans and has helped the U.S. be the world’s largest producer of corn every year since at least 1961. Iowa also has a lot of animals that eat corn and soybeans. The state is first in egg and pork production and fifth in the number of feedlot cattle. Concentrating both cropland and livestock within the state has created efficiencies in production, transportation, fertilization, and accumulated wealth for a lucky few.
The immensity of this production has come at a cost: soil erosion, the loss of wildlife habitat, a lack of public parks and recreation areas, foul air from animal waste, and especially degraded water. Iowa has over 70,000 miles of streams, and only 15 segments of these meet all the designated uses outlined under the Clean Water Act. The pollutants from Iowa’s rivers ultimately drain to the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico, part of which is killed off every summer by Corn Belt pollution from farms 1,500 miles upstream. More than 20% of Iowans drink water treated for the removal of nitrate—a regulated drinking water contaminant that results from corn and livestock production—and nearly 7,000 private wells are contaminated with this pollutant.
Yet the state’s elected leaders and the Big Ag industry (in some cases one and the same) continue to whistle past the graveyard on their way to parking their backsides on the status quo, all the while gaslighting citizens about the condition of their water. In The Swine Republic, Chris Jones takes a long hard look at the science, politics, culture, and economics of Iowa agriculture and the state’s degraded waters and connects the dots for everyone who wonders why progress toward improvement is so maddeningly slow in Iowa and the rest of the farmed Midwest.
Chris Jones is a Research Engineer with IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering at the University of Iowa. He holds a PhD in Analytical Chemistry from Montana State University and a BA in chemistry and biology from Simpson College. Previous career stops include the Des Moines Water Works and the Iowa Soybean Association. As an avid outdoorsman, he enjoys fishing, bird watching, gardening, and mushroom hunting in both Iowa and Wisconsin. While he spends most of his time in Iowa City, he is especially fond of the Upper Mississippi River and the Driftless Area of Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.