Hogs dominate county supervisors meeting

~by Janice Harbaugh for GreeneCountyNewsOnline

The Greene County supervisors’ agenda was hog-heavy Monday, as the supervisors reviewed the scoring of a master matrix for one new concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO), held public hearings on two other CAFOs, and discussed a pair of draft letters to the legislature asking for a review of the master matrix. The board reviewed the master matrix scoring for Wenger Pork, proposed to be built in Paton Township, Section 36. The expansion of an existing facility achieved a score of 465. The board found no issues with the current operation. Click here to read the master matrix.

Mike Wenger presented information. The operation will have a total capacity of 4,980 hogs when completed. He’s now feeding for JBS but will switch to Seaboard Foods after the expansion. He doesn’t own the ground in the manure management plan but has an agreement with a nearby landowner. The operation is in the Beaver Creek watershed.

A public hearing for Brown Pork Site, Sec 20 of Cedar Township, Section 20 was quiet, with no comments from the gallery. The board had not received phone calls or written correspondence on the proposed site.

The site received a matrix score of 460. Colin Brown will feed for Seaboard Foods. The board voted unanimously to recommend the Iowa DNR approve the construction permit. The supervisors commended Brown for staying in Greene County to begin his agricultural career. Brown Pork Site will be the 100th CAFO in the county.

A public hearing for McCormick Pork Site #2, in Highland Township, Section 24 followed. John McCormick is adding a 2,480-head finisher to an existing facility. He will also feed for Seaboard Foods. The matrix score was 515.

The board learned of a letter in support of the expansion from Herbert Johnson of Williamsburg, who owns land nearby, and a phone call of concern from Duane Miller, a neighbor. The board discussed the concerns with McCormick. The board again voted unanimously to recommend to the DNR approval of the construction permit.

After several weeks of discussing asking the legislature to review the master matrix, and after looking at two draft resolutions – one provided by county zoning officer Chuck Wenthold and one written by Dale Hanaman of Rippey – the supervisors on Monday looked at letters written by board member Peter Bardole and Franklin Township farmer and clean water advocate Chris Henning.

Bardole is a partner in a new CAFO northwest of Rippey and a Farm Bureau member. Board chair John Muir had asked him to gather a committee to draft a letter; Bardole instead drafted the letter himself, using input from others.

According to Bardole’s letter, the supervisors “see and understand the benefits of animal agriculture of all sizes” and they believe the master matrix is working as far as setting consistent rules for all producers. The letter also states that Greene County CAFO operators “are good people and do their best to be good neighbors.”

His letter mentions new technology and agronomic practices have been developed since the master matrix was written that the supervisors would like to see considered.
He named electra static fence that helps to reduce odor, fewer restrictions on the species of trees that should be planted as a buffer, and the use of cover crops in the manure management plan as examples of things that should be considered.

Henning’s letter also mentions changes in agriculture since the master matrix was introduced. Her letter was less specific in suggesting changes, and the supervisors may include a paragraph from her letter in their final version: “We feel that a blue ribbon committee could be convened to look at the matrix as a decision-making device, to see what can and should be updated and make recommendations that the legislature can act on.”

Henning stated, “I don’t want to come down as ‘anti.’ I’m for clean air and clean water for everyone in Greene County.”

The discussion included issues of local control of the approval process for new operations, the idea of automatic and regular reviews of the matrix, and issues of out-of-county ownership of operations. Muir observed, “People have concerns. There are issues with anything where you start to expand.”

The board was in general agreement that it does not want additional control of the approval process beyond what they already have in being able to deduct points from an application. The consensus was that having more control than that could foster political pressure to be applied to the decision process, or at least that it could appear that decisions were influenced by pressure from various entities.

GreeneCountyNewsOnline asked if there had been instances in the past where the board had concerns about an operation and had put those in writing to the IDNR. Muir said the board had done that on occasion.

Dale and Nancy Hanaman also spoke in support of a matrix review. In response to several board members stating that the board has limited power when an applicant meets the minimum points required on the matrix for approval, Nancy Hanaman stated, “I think the county supervisors do have some power, however, by urging that the matrix be reviewed.”
The board discussed both drafts and Peter Bardole was assigned to synthesize a final letter in support of a review of the master matrix.

In other business, David Kersey was approved as fulltime jailer with an annual salary of $40, 500.

Patti Treibel Leeds introduced Richey Thongvahn, new Poweshiek, Boone, and Greene County mental health advocate.

Angie Gingery, Shannon Black, and Peg Raney presented a proposal to the Board on behalf of Jefferson Matters: Main Street for the Bell Tower Festival in June. They would like to initiate the Reunion Rendezvous to provide a meeting place for alumni and others returning to Greene County for the Festival and class reunions. They proposed a roped-off area on the north side of the courthouse lawn, with tables and chairs. This would occur after the parade from 12:30 to 3 pm.

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