The Greene County Board of Supervisors’ public hearing last Monday morning on a hog CAFO proposed for construction in Greenbrier Township proved two things: many rural residents are angry when people can smell the profits of confined animal feeding without also smelling the accompanying manure; and the county supervisors think they’re hog-tied by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the master matrix.
More than 50 persons attended the public hearing on the construction permit for Nick Miller and Megan (Andrew) Carman, doing business as Oakview Pork LLC. The proposal is for two buildings with a capacity of 4,980 head. Annual production would be 11,454 hogs and 1.6 million gallons of manure. Oakview Pork would be located in Section 26 of Greenbrier Township. The master matrix scored 450 points of a total 880 possible. The DNR requires 440 points for approval.
The hearing was held in the Greene County District Courtroom to accommodate the large number of attendees.
Greenbrier resident Jody Byerly spoke first and hit most of the points mentioned by the dozen people who spoke in opposition to Oakview Pork. She said that when she and her husband Chad purchased their home on 305th Street, there were CAFOs nearby.
“They were there first, and I can live with that,” said Byerly. “But now I feel that what right do they (Miller, Carman) have to use their property in a way that infringes upon the way that I can use mine? If they were building a house and they were going to live there 340 days a year and they were drinking the water out of the well they put in, I wouldn’t fight it so much because they’re living the same life they’re forcing me to live.”
She said another CAFO would threaten their air quality and threaten their water.
Chad Byerly, Roberta Brown Henning, Dennis and Janet Hendricks, and Chris Henning talked about odor and threats to water quality. Bill Frederick said the fact that neither Carman nor Miller will live there shows a lack of respect to the neighborhood. Henning and Dale Hanaman asked the supervisors to take a stand and recommend disapproval to the DNR.
“The matrix is so hole-y it leaks manure everywhere,” Henning said. “Greene County supervisors and Greene County residents need to be on the vanguard with other supervisors in other counties and say this matrix doesn’t work for us. It needs larger limits from people’s houses, it needs better controls, it needs higher scoring, and it needs some things required. I urge you as concerned citizens and as representatives of our county to say that to the DNR and to the governing body of this state.”
Kent Bates farmed the ground in the manure management plan years ago. He said the field is in a mud hole and there’s a 300-foot-deep well nearby.
John McCormick, a past president of the Greene County Farm Bureau, spoke in favor of the CAFOs. According to McCormick, CAFOs have not decreased nearby property values. Twenty-five persons younger than 40 are operating CAFOs in Greene County to get their start in agriculture (McCormick is one of them), he said. CAFOs contribute $17 million to the economy, he said, and added that there’s no scientific proof of a negative impact on the Raccoon River by CAFOs.
Brian Hunter, owner of several CAFOs, explained that Miller and Andy Carman worked for him when they were in high school and during the summers while they’re in college. “They’ve done everything there is to do with pigs,” Hunter said. “They’re Greene County’s finest young men.”
Hunter said CAFOs serve community and economic development.
“What’s going on here is a bigger issue than just the smell of hog manure,” he said. “We’ve got a county that wants a school. We just refurbished our hospital. We want young kids; here’s two for you. . . . These two guys are going to build a hog site in this county, put their kids through school in this county, spend all their money in this county, or they’re going to go six or seven miles west and do the same thing over there and spend all their money there.”
Those arguments are the staples of the public hearings on proposed CAFOs.
New to the supervisors was the attendance of Erica Blair, an organizer for the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. Blair reminded the supervisors their role and responsibility is to examine and scrutinize the application thoroughly. According to Blair, the master matrix does not include enough information about the required design, operation and maintenance plans. She contended that:
• The required design, operation and maintenance plan for the covered liquid manure storage tank is missing details and that 30 points should be taken from the master matrix.
• There is no list of items on the covered manure storage tank that will be inspected once the building is in operation. Thirty points should be deducted.
• There is not enough information in the design, operation and maintenance plan for the truck turnaround. Twenty points should be deducted.
• There is not enough information about the design, operation and maintenance of the wet/dry livestock feeding and watering systems. Twenty-five points should be deducted.
• The closure plan in the master matrix does not specify whether it would be in effect if the CAFO changed ownership. Five points should be deducted.
Blair gave the supervisors a copy of a letter sent by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) after upholding similar findings by another county board of supervisors in recommending denial of a construction permit. According to Blair, there is a precedent for denials based on inadequate information in the design, operating and maintenance plans.
Megan and Andy Carman and Nick Miller declined to comment during the hearing.
Supervisor Tom Contner said he can see both sides of the issue.
Supervisor Pete Bardole said he had received more telephone calls on the Oakview CAFO than on any other, with most of them being about odor. “As I look at the matrix, I wish it would take into account a lot more points for air quality. I think if we took care of that it would solve a lot of the problems,” he said.
Supervisor Dawn Rudolph said she knows manure smells bad but there would be no way to raise enough meat to meet world demand on open feedlots. “I’m not going to say the matrix is the greatest thing on earth. It needs to be changed,” she said, naming changes in technology as requiring changes to the matrix. “Can we make the changes as a board of supervisors? No.”
Rudolph said the supervisors don’t have to use the master matrix and its public hearing process. They could instead send all applications directly to the DNR. She also said they can’t “illegally” deduct points.
“If we try to pursue things that are not legal, the DNR can take this hearing process away,” she said.
Board chair John Muir said he was not comfortable deducting points, despite the information Blair provided. During the hearing, Greene County Sanitarian Chuck Wenthold checked for records of the deep well Bates mentioned and said he couldn’t find any.
The public hearing lasted almost 90 minutes. The supervisors approved a motion to recommend the DNR approve the construction permit, with inclusion of the comments and concern about the possible well. Supervisors Muir, Rudolph, Bardole and Contner all voted for the motion. Supervisor Mick Burkett was absent.
Victoria Riley is the editor and publisher of the Greene County News Online.