Four confinement projects move forward

More than 100 attend public hearing Tuesday morning

The Hamilton County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday morning to recommend four construction permit applications for new swine finisher barns in northeast Hamilton County. The approval came following a public hearing that brought comments from both opponents and supporters of the projects.

More than 100 people gathered in the basement of the Hamilton County Courthouse for the public hearing.

Board Chairman David Young reminded those present that the supervisors’ vote on the matter would only address whether the construction permit applications meets the requirements of the Code of Iowa.

“There are things in the Code of Iowa that I would really like to vote against, but I don’t because it is the law,” he said.

Young introduced Darrell Hunt who handles site development work for Iowa Select Farms. Hunt outlined the size and scope of the projects.

• Stagecoach Finisher Farms, a 4,800-head project, with deep pit, swine finisher confinement buildings, in Section 28 of Fremont Township;

• Doolan Finisher Farm, 7,200-head site, three new barns with deep pits, swine finisher confinement buildings for a facility located in Section 10 of Fremont Township;

• Abbott Finisher Farm, 4,800-head site, two barns, deep pit swine finisher confinement buildings for a swine facility located Section 18 of Fremont Township;

• Chase Finisher Farm, 4,800-head site, with two barns, deep pit swine finisher confinement buildings for a facility located in Section 18 of Fremont Township.

“When we look at sites, we work with land owners. We look at the maximum separation distances from neighbors, public use areas and water sources. Our manure management people evaluate these sites in great detail,” he said. “We try to maximize the setback and separation distances from all of these sites.”

He added that all the buildings will feature 8-foot deep pits for manure. There will be no lagoons.

The supervisors allowed comments from those in attendance, limiting remarks from each person to two minutes.

Fourteen in attendance offered their support for the four projects. Most of those speaking were employed by Iowa Select Farms or contracted with the company.

Zach Schumacher, Webster City, a ventilation specialist for ISF, said he was brought in to work on a unique filtration project.

“Now they are adopting a technology that improves the air going out for the farms going forward,” he said. “Electrostatic filtration fences serve as a physical barrier outside the barns.”

He explained that the electrostatic charge essentially knocks the dust down to the ground.

“When the particulate matter is removed from the air, the odor is reduced,” he said.

Aaron Fopma said he has worked for ISF for 21 years and is also on the Hamilton County Farm Bureau board.

“One of Iowa Select Farms core values is to care for the environment. We understand that the environment is a very fragile resource,” Fopma said. “It’s our job to take care of it and we take that seriously.

“We also live in communities around our farms and so it’s very important to us that we are protecting the environment around our farms.”

Another ISF employee, Noel Williams, said the company plans to plant trees around the confinement facilities to help reduce the odor and dust for the neighbors.

“We do care and are concerned with that,” Williams said.

Five letters of opposition were received, according to Young. Seven opponents attending the meeting voiced their concerns about the proposed concentrated animal feeding operations or CAFOs, in Hamilton County.

“I’m very much against more hog confinements. I’m surrounded. The flies are so bad you can’t believe what it takes to keep them down,” said Gladys Pruismann who lives south of Blairsburg. “When they spread the manure, it’s not always knifed in … you can’t open the windows. There’s no air quality.”

Richard Cressinger Jr. said he thought the company was giving those in attendance a “snow job.”

“I’m all for big business and making money, but we’re hearing platitudes about the increase in jobs, how much science is involved and what the company is doing for people,” he said. “Overall, hog facilities in the United States have been contributing to nitrate contamination.”

Cathy Carter, who lives in northeastern Hamilton County, said she her husband bought an acreage more than 20 years ago.

“When we bought that place, there wasn’t a CAFO in sight. Now we’re surrounded,” she said. “I can’t do anything in the summertime if there’s a south wind. I can’t hang laundry outside, I can’t do yard work. I can’t open the garage door or open windows.”

What’s worse, she said, was when her neighbor spreads manure on a field just 50 feet from her house.

“Fifty feet is not very darn far,” she added.

“Iowa Select might be a terrific company to work for, but it’s not doing anything for the rest of the residents in the country who have established homes here,” she said.

Several people mentioned the large quantities of water that the confinement facilities use.

“The Jordan aquifer is already getting depleted faster than it can refill,” Carter said.

Dean Anderson told the board that he lived in a triangle of CAFOs, with chicken facilities nearby as well. He echoed others comments about the fly and odor problems.

“I’m right in the middle. So, what’s the value of what I own?” he asked. “All my life I’ve worked and built that farm. If I wanted to get rid of it, who would want to buy that and give me what it’s worth? We’re in trouble.”

“It seems to me that this group here today is 70 miles too far north of a solution,” Supervisor Dan Campidilli said, suggesting that the only way more protections could be added are through legislative change. “The only thing we can do is to look at the Master Matrix.”

The master matrix is a scoring system that is used to evaluate the siting of permitted confinement feeding operations, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

“What upsets me the most is none of the neighbors were contacted,” Campidilli said. “I contacted Iowa Select and told them they needed to get over here and contact those people. I was told that some counties send letters out. But it’s not our responsibility.

“It’s the company’s job — to be a good neighbor,” he said. “It wasn’t handled on the front end very well. This could have gone better.”

Supervisor Doug Bailey said he would like to see large and small producers from across the state sit down and look at the Master Matrix.

“I think everyone knows that there are issues and changes could be made to it,” he said. “It’s time to take a look at it. But the producers need to look at it, come up with recommendations and take it to the Legislators.

“That’s where this process needs to progress to,” he said.

Young, a retired fourth generation farmer, said he has supported family farms building livestock buildings.

“I’m not going to apologize for that,” he said. “But I think there are changes that could happen in the Matrix. I have begged the Iowa Pork Producers Association and Farm Bureau to help lead this charge. It’s time for them to step up.”