Dallas County Hog Confinements to be Built

by 5m Editor
14 July 2008, at 10:39am

IOWA - Construction of two large hog confinements were voted in opposition on Friday by the Dallas County supervisors. However, they do acknowledge that the move is little more than symbolic.

"We sympathize with the issues that residents have, but it doesn't matter what the county does. They need to take this cause to the Legislature."
Murray McConnell, Dallas County's planning and development director

Dallas is among 70 counties that have adopted a system of requirements used by state regulators to determine whether construction of an animal confinement is allowed, which means the Board of Supervisors and dozens of residents who live near the proposed buildings provide input but have little say over what happens in their backyards.

According to the DesMoinesRegister, the so-called "master matrix," created in 2003, awards points based on how a confinement will affect the air, water and community. Both proposed Dallas County confinements garnered enough points for approval, which county officials must submit to the state by Monday.

Residents say the grading system creates an illusion of local control. "In reality, the county has very little control over this," said Jim Thompson, who lives near one of the proposed sites west of Perry.

Applications to build animal confinements are submitted to the county, where officials score the matrix. If an applicant gets the needed points, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources approves the application. If the county issues a failing grade, the state rescores the matrix and can overrule the decision.

Residents hoped county officials could do more to halt the proposals, which call for confinements south of Dawson with 7,440 hogs each.

"We sympathize with the issues that residents have, but it doesn't matter what the county does," said Murray McConnell, the county's planning and development director. "They need to take this cause to the Legislature."

Iowa raises about 25 percent of the nation's pork, and the industry is responsible for about 63,000 jobs in the state. Meanwhile, Iowa's hog producers have made money the past three years, which has increased the number of permit applications. Industry leaders have historically pushed for a statewide approval system for confinements rather than face 99 sets of county rules.

The main problem with the approval system, opponents say, is that the impact on those who live near animal confinements doesn't carry enough weight. Thompson, who already lives near one 3,400-hog confinement, said residents' concerns go beyond the sometimes overwhelming smell of manure. They fear the confinements will also hurt air and water quality.

View the DesMoinesRegister story by clicking here.

5m Editor