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15,000-Hog Plan Given the Green Light

by 5m Editor
15 October 2008, at 8:54am

US - On Tuesday, a Granger farmer reached an agreement with state regulators that is to allow construction of two large confinements south of Dawson with room for nearly 15,000 hogs.

Robert Manning Jr.'s proposal has been at the center of a months-long battle that has included angry neighbors, reluctant county officials, and defiant members of the state Environmental Protection Commission, who voted in August to block the project.

Tuesday's deal means the structures can be built, but only with a detailed series of features such as tree lines, grass buffers, emergency plans and restrictions on when manure from the confinements can be spread. Manning has said his plan is to produce enough manure to fertilize 7,000 Dallas County acres he farms with his father and brother. Minnesota food-production giant Cargill would own the hogs.

Construction could begin this fall, according to DesMoinesRegister.com.

The agreement "makes me want to pack up my family and move out of Iowa," said Denise Schuhardt, who lives near the proposed confinements.

Manning's lawyer, Mike Blaser, said many of the provisions in the agreement are "either already required by state law or already planned for these developments."

"I'm glad for the producer," Blaser said. "Because from his standpoint, he spent a lot of time and effort to get where he was" before the commission, a citizen panel, overturned state regulators who had already approved permits for the confinements.

"There are battle lines being drawn on this," Henry Marquard, chairman of the commission, said after the surprise August vote. Marquard said he believed the commission has broader authority than state natural resources officials, who are obligated by state law to approve animal confinements that meet certain requirements established by a "master matrix" adopted in more than 80 counties.

The process awards points based on a confinement's estimated effects on air, water and neighbors. Manning's project easily garnered the points needed for approval. Commission members argued that the standards are too low. The Raccoon River watershed, one of the most polluted in the state, cannot afford more pollution from manure, they said. The river is a source of drinking water for the Des Moines metro area.

Manning appealed the commission's vote, and the disagreement was likely headed to court.

After a closed-door meeting Tuesday, Marquard said: "We are pleased an agreement was able to be reached providing greater protection for the environment, and we appreciate the producers' commitment to resolve this issue."

Schuhardt said she believes the agreement will not do enough to protect the environment or her two sons who suffer from asthma.

"I'm scared to death for myself and my family. Our property values are going to plummet," she said. "The rights of the hog industry are over the rights of the citizens of this state."

Large-scale livestock confinements have separated Iowa agriculture interests and environmentalists for the better part of three decades. The state Supreme Court in 2004 threw out a county ordinance that aimed at regulating hog lots as health hazards. Neighbors' complaints about odors and pollution, however, continue unabated.

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.

5m Editor