November 30, 2006

Heated Hearing Pits Neighbor vs. Neighbor In Pig Debate

“No pun intended, but this just stinks,” said one neighbor of the new concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) being proposed by Rodney and Tammy Newland to be built on their farm near Downing.

The couple met with the Scotland County Commission on November 22 in a public hearing for the proposed deep-pit wean-to-finish hog facility that will be located in northwest Scotland County.

Approximately 30 neighbors and adjoining landowners were present for the hearing.

Newland currently is awaiting the permit from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to begin construction of the CAFO that will house up to 4,980 head in the building that is expected to be 120’ by 315’ when constructed next year.

He stated the DNR permitting process is expected to take four to five months, meaning it would be January at the earliest before he knows if the facility will be a go.

Newland addressed concerns from neighbors regarding the manure generated by the facility. He stated the eight-foot deep pit under the facility is manufactured to hold one-year’s supply of animal waste which will have to be pumped out of the pit, which he assured the crowd was to be built to DNR specifications to insure groundwater safety.

The owner added that he had well over 1,000 acres under ownership or under agreement to be used to dispose of the waste, which will be knifed into the soil on ground contingent to the hog facility for fertilizer value. The process can only be performed once every two years to the ground, which must adhere to nutrient management plans and soil testing requirements within the DNR operating permit guidelines.

“We want to follow the plan,” said Newland. “We want to be good neighbors and use the best management practices.”

Commissioner Paul Campbell tried to reassure the gathering about the safety of the process.

“I can’t see this being a problem,” Campbell said of the waste disposal. “This gentleman is putting a sizable investment into this operation so he is not going to do anything to jeopardize his permit. If he does not adhere to the guidelines the permit can be pulled.”

Other meeting attendees expressed concerns about the effect the facility will have on adjoining property values.

County Assessor Jim Ward said the plan would have no effect on the assessed valuation of the adjoining property. County clerk Betty Lodewegen stated, in conversations with other counties with similar projects, she had been told by other county clerks that there was no negative impact on assessed valuations of neighboring properties.

But neighbor Frank Jones argued that assessed valuation and resale value are two different things.

“If you have property close to one of these things and you choose to sell out, it definitely does impact the resale value of your property,” Jones stated.

Additional concerns voiced by the gathering centered on the fact that the project involved both Scotland County and Schuyler County. While Scotland County has a health ordinance in place that requires CAFOs to meet guidelines beyond the DNR requirements, Schuyler County does not. Several Schuyler County residents pointed out that Scotland County would be getting all of the tax benefits from the proposed facility, while Schuyler County would be the site where most of the waste would be disposed.

Garry Klicker of Davis County, IA, warned the county commission against allowing CAFOs to get a toehold in the community. He stated he had moved back to his home in Davis County 11 years ago, but was now giving up his dream and was moving back out west because more than 130 hog facilities had been built in that county in the past decade.

“I can’t stand it anymore,” he said. “I’m giving up my lifetime dream of coming home just to get away from them.”

Commissioner Campbell stated that while the commission has a responsibility to the constituents, many of those are also family farmers.

“I’m speaking for myself and not for the commission,” Campbell said, “but I find it hard for me to dictate to a farmer how they will make their living and how they will support their family.

“Agriculture is our #1 industry. I know there are some concerns, and sure I may not want one in my backyard, but if one of my neighbors wanted to do this, I wouldn’t stand in their way.”

Klicker argued that this was not a matter of the family farm but instead was just an expansion of the meat processing corporations.

“This isn’t agriculture,” Klicker said. “This is industrial meat and manure production with all of the money going elsewhere to the big corporations and we are left with the manure.”

Klicker told the commission that it was in the position to stop “this infestation” comparing the spread of CAFO’s in a community to the multiplying of rats.

Presiding Commissioner Mike Stephenson said that Klicker and many others have a monstrous misconception that the county commission has the power to stop CAFOs.

“Scotland County is one of just 21 counties in the state to have enacted the strictest health ordinances under law to govern these facilities,” Stephenson said. “While this may not be adequate in some peoples’ eyes, we have used every tool the state of Missouri has available to place some control over these issues. If the DNR and county guidelines are met, we have no legal standing not to grant the permit.”

Doug Ruth, who was the second farmer in Scotland County to receive a CAFO permit told the gathering that he had undertaken the project in an effort to offset rising fertilizer costs.

“We have a 1,500 acre farm and I grow about 750 acres of corn a year,” he said. “With fertilizer costs at over $100 an acre, I’m saving $75,000 on fertilizer so we are putting up a hog building for our fertilizer needs.

“I don’t feel like I am jeopardizing anyone’s health,” he said. “Feel free to come look at my site. I don’t think it is right that anyone thinks they can tell me what I can do on my own land.”

If approved the Newland facility will be the third CAFO permit issued by Scotland County.

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