Hog confinement operation plan stirs controversy in Tama County

2013-06-10T10:00:00Z 2013-06-10T13:06:56Z Hog confinement operation plan stirs controversy in Tama CountyBy JIM OFFNER, jim.offner@wcfcourier.com Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier

GLADBROOK, Iowa --- A proposed hog operation in Tama County is causing quite a stink.

"There's a lot of things we are against. In general, is this the type of farming we should be doing in Iowa?" said Jess Mazour, rural project organizer for Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, a Des Moines-based activist group.

ICCI is asking the Tama County Board of Supervisors to deny a construction permit for what it calls a "factory farm" proposed by Alden-based Summit Farms about two miles west of Lincoln and five miles north of Gladbrook.

Steve Anderson of Beaman currently owns the land that will house the operation, ICCI said in a news release.

"We want Steve Anderson to do the right thing for our community and cancel the sale and put an end to this. It is tearing apart our community," ICC member Dave McGowan, who lives about a mile from the site, said in the news release. "It's an environmental hazard, it will destroy our quality of life and the smell will make us prisoners in our own homes."

The board was scheduled to consider the permit for the project today.

County Supervisor Dan Anderson, who is in charge of manure management issues, said he wasn't sure how routine this vote would be.

Summit is owned by Iowa Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter, whom the activist group has accuses of conflicts of interest.

The proposed facility could house 4,400 hogs and produce more than 1.1 million gallons of toxic manure every year, according to ICCI.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources, which could decide the issue but generally defers to county boards' decisions, describes the operation as "not unusually large."

Summit Farms counters that all environmental concerns on the master matrix --- a checklist of criteria an applicant must meet in order to secure the necessary permits --- have been not only met but exceeded.

"Summit Farms is committed to the responsible and environmentally sustainable development and management of pork production facilities," said Mitch Baum, manager of business development with Summit Farms. "As an Iowa-based company, we have taken great care to ensure the proposed Tama County facility matrix is strong and meets or exceeds all current standards."

This includes placing the site the required distance from existing structures and waterways, planting a protective barrier of trees and shrubs and utilizing a manure handling and storage system that adheres to industry best practices, he said.

Matt Gebel, who in December bought a house on 5 acres outside Gladbrook, is concerned.

"The problem is this is just a factory farm. There isn't a farmer that's going to be on-site with this hog confinement," Gebel said. "It's a classic case of big corporate wanting to move into a small community just for the resources. None of the money generated by this factory farm will be put back into the community, just because there's no one local there."

Summit hired Iowa Falls-based environmental consulting firm Pinnacle Iowa to help the company draw up a plan to meet all standards.

Mazour said manure storage is a problem with this proposal.

"They have a description of their manure storage tank that's two sentences long. We need more detail," she said.

Kent Krause, Pinnacle's president, said the plan meets or beats all requirements.

"The matrix weighs that site impact on local air and water system and the local community, and on each question, they have different percentages of how it impacts those three areas of evaluation. If you have a lot of extra distance to neighbors, you're going to get some air points and community points."

Krause said the site of the proposed facility calls for a 2,000-foot separation distance from the slurry, or manure storage facility --- about four-tenths of a mile.

"If (a neighbor) is a mile away, he'd be over 21/2 times the required separation distance," Krause said.

The DNR generally defers to a county's decision on granting permits, said Gene Tinker, Manchester-based livestock coordinator for the bureau.

"Since it needs a construction permit, and Tama County has elected to use the master matrix, it has to meet state standards," Tinker said. "It's very unlikely it wouldn't meet standards, because they have professionals working on this."

Tinker said the only way DNR likely would get involved in the process is if the board were to give Summit's plan a passing score and then vote to deny a permit.

Copyright 2015 Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(2) Comments

  1. aronsonbt
    Report Abuse
    aronsonbt - June 10, 2013 6:56 pm

    It sure would be nice to do those things. However, have you considered how much the cost of your food would be if they went back to the old practices? The ICCI calls it "1.1 Million Gallons of toxic manure," but did you know that this "toxic manure" goes back into the land to grow the vegetables we eat everyday? Also, lets not forget Iowa IS a farming state. If you don't like the smell, feel free to move to a big city, where instead of hog manure you can freely inhale the toxic waste of your fellow humans.
  2. Almie
    Report Abuse
    Almie - June 10, 2013 2:30 pm
    Good, I wish we could get rid of all the smelly things. Better yet turn the hogs out in pastures like they used to.....oh but that would be too much trouble and less money to be made.

    It would be nice to drive the highways and not have to put up with that awful smell
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