Supervisors say no to CAFO moratorium
Hamilton County rejects proffered resolution that seeks traction against growing numbers of animal confinements
A resolution calling for a the governor and state Legislature to put a moratorium on new hog confinements in Hamilton County was denied traction before the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors Tuesday.
The resolution, which also asked the state to review and address the master matrix, failed to to receive a motion during the supervisors’ meeting.
The resolution was brought before the supervisors by citizens concerned with the growing number of concentrated animal confinement operations — CAFOs — in Hamilton County.
The same resolution has been approved in 22 other Iowa counties, including Webster and Hardin.
It points out that Hamilton’s supervisors have received 16 applications for permits to construct CAFOs in the past two years, and that there are already 216 medium and large CAFOs in the county.
The resolution asked the supervisors to “petition the governor of Iowa and the state Legislature to address the failings of the master matrix to protect the air, water, health, ‘quality of life’ and economic interests of the citizens” they were elected to represent. It also asks that local control be returned to counties by reasoning that the master matrix has failed to protect the local community.
Kathy Getting, of Williams, read the document aloud.
Then, the supervisors opened the floor for comments.
“In every industry, no matter what it is, the rules and regulations need to be reviewed, updated and brought into to match the current economic and social conditions,” said Kent Wagner. “I think it’s probably time to look at the master matrix.
“It makes sense. They need to be reviewed,” he said.
Getting likened the growth of CAFOs in Hamilton County to a “severe case of acne on a teenager.”
“We’re here today to advance this resolution. In speaking to you privately, you said you had reservations about this resolution,” she said. “But I have to ask, what are you concerned about?
“We’re not asking you to set policy or raise taxes. We’re just asking you to adopt a non-binding resolution that signals to the state legislators that there are growing numbers of citizens that are concerned about the proliferation of factory farms in their neighborhoods,” she said.
Getting said that Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement had shared resources with the local group.
The supervisors indicated that was a cause for concern.
“But how is CCI helping us different from Pinnacle Group helping factory farms complete an application? How is CCI sharing resources with us, different from constituents donating to your re-election?” Getting asked.
She added, “Your constituents are asking to you to support this resolution.”
Lyle Evans, of rural Webster City, talked about how CAFOs had affected his produce farm. He said there is a 4,500-head CAFO located nearby, as well as an open manure pit.
“I was going to do things like U Pick, encourage people to come to the farm, but during the summer and fall months, it wasn’t a viable economic model because of the effects in terms of air quality and the flies,” he said.
Greg Carlson, a pork producer from southern Hamilton County, shared economic data. He said the pork industry provided 1,756 jobs in Hamilton County and provides $11.8 million in state and local taxes, $467 million in sales and federal taxes of $26 million.
“I’m in favor of keeping this business in the county,” he said, adding that he opposes the moratorium.
Gene Gourley, another pork producer, said he also opposes a moratorium.
“I farm with my family — my three brothers. We have a grain operation of about 3,000 acres and have about 5,000 sows,” he said.
Gourley said he understood the concerns, but heard the same thing in the 1990s.
“We’re at over 20 years and we’ve had 216 CAFOs built in this county,” he said. “The water is not destroyed. The air is not destroyed. My family lives close to all of our operations. We have two neighbors who live within 700 feet. No complaints.”
Supervisor David Young said he looked at the growing pork industry in the county not as a detriment, but as an opportunity.
“This is an opportunity for our family farmers to keep our young people here,” he said. “Sixty-eight percent of revenue the supervisors get from tax comes from some form of ag-related taxes.”
Doug Bailey, another supervisor, said he has issues with the resolution. He said that, nearly always, resolutions come from the board, not outside sources. This particular resolution, Bailey said, contains information and requests with which he and his fellow supervisors do not agree.
“In particular, I would come down to the moratorium. A moratorium is not a resolution to this issue, unless you’re looking at this as the first step to a ban. Action needs to be taken at the state level with the state Legislature and the governor in partnership leading the way.”
Bailey also had some harsh words for CCI.
“I have found that organization, since I’ve been following the Prestage working with the city council in Mason City, reprehensible. Their tactics of half-truths, of lies, of intimidation,” he said. “And I’m certainly not interested in being part of a document they had anything to do with.”
Bailey said the supervisors are interested in serving all of the people in the county, with an aim towards what is in the best interests of everyone.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Dan Campidilli said the board had met with the Iowa Association of Counties annual school recently.
“This year they brought up legislative suggestions and recommendations. One of those had to do with the master matrix,” he said.
He explained that the group supported asking the Legislature to hold meetings with stakeholders to review the current master matrix and evaluate recommendations to enhance the matrix system.
Eventually, Campidilli called for a motion on the resolution, but as none was presented, meaning the matter was defeated.
Kent Krause of Pinnacle Group, Iowa Falls, said his organization prepared the permit for the Blairsburg Site 21 and he outlined the proposed project.
“This would be 4,999-head site. It will be a roto-finish site with pigs coming in feeder-pig size and will be going out market size,” Krause said. He added that 2.5 groups would go through the site each year.
Krause said the site had scored 495 points on the master matrix. The minimum required scoring is 440 points. The project calls for deep-pitted barns with manure stored in concrete pits below the slatted floors with a roof covering the barns.
“The manure is totally enclosed with covered storage,” he said.
He added that the site will feature a truck turn-around that will allow trucks to come off the gravel road for delivery of feed products or to move animals.
“Spreading manure on top is still legal in Iowa, but very few people do that because we don’t want to lose the nitrogen contained in the manure,” he said. “Summit Farms has made the commitment to inject or incorporate the manure on the day that it is applied.”
Barb Furman, who lives in the area of the new barns, said she doesn’t understand why Summit Farms chose Hamilton County.
“There are 23 confinements within a mile and a half of our house,” she said. “Who would want to buy my house?”
Furman said her family had spent more than 30 years living there and creating a home they wanted to live in.
“This is a problem. There are too many confinements,” she said. “I don’t want any more near my house.”
Kent Wagner said he wasn’t sure what he was going to say until he heard Furman’s story.
“I’m sorry for you,” he told her. “I wouldn’t want to do that to her. I think that it’s about time that people start to realize that and we start to stand up for our neighbors.”
The board unanimously approved the master matrix for Blairsburg Site 21.