Supervisors recommend permits on two more CAFOs

Burkett tells rural resident who’s drinking “crap” to drink bottled water

Greene County supervisors were asked to consider joining a growing number of counties that are asking for a review and update of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ master matrix at a pair of public hearings Monday on confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

Only a handful of people not directly involved with the two proposed CAFOs were at the hearings.

The first hearing was on site proposed by Bruce Youngblood in Section 25 of Bristol Township. Youngblood already has eight hog confinements. The two proposed buildings brings that number to 10. The new buildings have a capacity of 2,400 head each. (Buildings typically cycle 2-1/2 time a year. In two years each building would produce 12,000 hogs.)

Board chair John Muir opened the public hearing on the Youngblood site with letters sent by Ann Johnson Piepel and Martin Halbur. Piepel wrote against the site and Halbur wrote in support of it.

Dick Finch of Jefferson said he was speaking “for the citizens of Greene County.” The proposed facility is 1-1/2 miles from Jefferson “as the crow flies,” he said, and with the prevailing winds, the smell of hogs will get to Jefferson.

He said any commercial growth in Jefferson will be along Highway 30, he said. “I think it would be a dire mistake to jeopardize the health and the quality of living for Jefferson and Greene County residents, and the chance of losing growth on Highway 30 for the gain of any one person… Today you have the opportunity to stop the unhealthy growth of these facilities too close to our population and industry and the future growth of Greene County.”

Chris Henning, a Franklin Township farmer who has addressed the supervisors on environmental concerns in the past, noted that the density of hogs in the county has gotten to a point that the master matrix should be reviewed for distances, and the health of the pigs, the employees there, “and the rest of us who have to drink the water that comes from the fields where the manure is spread.”

She said she had two creeks on her property tested recently and both had too much nitrogen and bacteria, and the closest manure spread in that watershed is 1-1/2 miles from her property.

Eleven counties have passed a resolution asking the DNR and the legislature for a moratorium on new hog CAFOs until the matrix is thoroughly reviewed and “upgraded to fit today’s world,” Henning said.

Farmer is “drinking crap”- She said her drinking well passes tests for bacteria only if she bleaches it. “It passes the test, but it doesn’t stay bleached, unless I bleach it and bleach it and bleach it…. I’m drinking crap, and some of the rest of you are, too, and some of you who farm it are doing it, too,” she said.

Finch then also spoke about a moratorium and referred to a Sept. 17 Des Moines Register article about hog CAFOs. “It’s a movement that has to happen. This thing (CAFOs) has gone completely overboard, and it’s time to do something about it,” he said.

Kent Crouse of Pinnacle prepared the master matrix and site plan for Youngblood. He noted that the master matrix scored 450 points, with 440 needed for approval. He said the hogs at the facility would produce 1.2 million gallons of manure annually, and that the 513 acres in the manure management plan have the capacity to take 2.2 million gallons a year. He said the Youngbloods have made a lifetime commitment to inject the manure.

He later said the manure management plan looks at phosphorous and nitrogen use of the soil, and that the livestock industry leads the ag industry in phosphorous monitoring and water quality.

Neighbor Justin Durlam, who lives near the site, asked questions about his future property values and impact on his well.

Supervisor Peter Bardole spoke first of the supervisors. He lives in Jefferson but farms in the Rippey area. He said that 20 years ago farmers were told they shouldn’t use commercial fertilizers, but use only manure. “A lot of producers headed that way, and now everybody’s saying that’s not the way. There’s got to be a balance…. As a producer you can’t come at from both sides. You can’t say ‘you can’t apply commercial fertilizer’ and ‘you can’t apply manure for fertilizer.’”

He said he’d like to see more done to abate odors. “Manure stinks no matter where it comes from,” he said.

Supervisor Dawn Rudolph acknowledged that water quality is an issue, but that no one intentionally harms water. “But on the other hand, at some point there is going to be too many (CAFOs). What point that is, I don’t know.”
She said she is more comfortable with local producers putting up CAFOs.

Drink bottled water – Supervisor Mick Burkett told Henning she should look at the fertilizer applied on lawns in town and golf courses. She challenged him to compare the number of acres being fertilized in towns and on golf courses to the number of acres in manure management plans.

“These people take care of the land, and it’s their land they’re taking care of. They’re good stewards,” Burkett said about farmers.

“It’s our water that all of us drink,” Henning responded.

“Maybe you should drink bottled water,” was Burkett’s reply.

“I don’t think I should have to drink bottled water, and I don’t think you should say the 500,000 people in Des Moines should drink bottled water. I think it’s our community, not just the pig farmers, who need to think about the water…. What I’m saying is, what is the carrying capacity of our land?” Henning said.

“You’re picking on these farmers saying they’re contaminating all of this,” Burkett said.

“What I’m saying is that what farmers do affects all of us….. I’d like us to say to the legislature, ‘Take a look at this’,” Henning said.

Board chair John Muir said he bases every decision on whether the master matrix has enough points to pass, but he said, “I can see there are things the legislature needs to address how the industry has changed… “I think the whole matrix should be gone through.”

The Youngblood public hearing lasted 40 minutes. The supervisors voted unanimously to recommend to the DNR that the construction permit be approved. Tom Contner was not at the meeting.

Kave Finisher – The public hearing on Kave Finisher Farm Site in Section 27 of Highland Township lasted only 15 minutes, and several of the arguments were restated.

Muir read an email from Teena Toliver of Churdan in opposition to the proposed CAFO.
Henning said the DNR is understaffed to inspect the 9,000 “factory farms” already in Iowa.

John McCormick of rural Churdan said there are five barns within a mile of the site where Iowa Select is proposing three buildings with a capacity of 7,200 hogs. He said there are sections of Highland Township with no houses, and that’s why there are so many CAFOs.
McCormick said according to an Iowa State University study, 17 percent of Iowa farmland has manure spread on it.

McCormick explained the property where Kave Finisher will be built was part of his late grandfather’s estate. He was able to purchase 100 of the 400 acres, but sold the remaining 300 acres. He does not plan to be the operator of the new facility, although he feeds for Iowa Select on adjoining farms.

Darrell Hunt was at the public hearing to represent New Modern Concepts, the company that will build the facility. There was not a spokersperson there from Iowa Select Farms.

Rudolph said she has a problem with absent owners. “I feel that if I have to listen to what neighbors have to say, they should have to listen to it, too…. I look through the list of investors and it doesn’t tell me anything…. I want to support the people who live here, who take pride… with the amount of backlash that we hear from time to time, they should have to listen to it. If I have to sit and listen to it, they should have to sit and listen to it.”

Burkett said this one “is a little different” because of McCormick’s involvement. Muir said it was unfair of Iowa Select to send McCormick as the “face” of the project. McCormick said he was there voluntarily.

About potential development on Highway 30, McCormick asked if the supervisors would turn “actual development away to hope some day something comes in?”
The supervisors also voted unanimously to recommend approval of the construction permit on Kave Finisher.

There was no discussion on asking the legislature or the DNR to revisit the master matrix.

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