Several county residents upset with proposed hog confinement

Posted on June 29, 2011

By Jason McGrann

EXLINE – Blake White grew up in Appanoose County and wants to stay in the county on the family farm.

“I just want to farm. I’ve always wanted to farm since I was a little kid. I went away to college so I could come back and be part of the farm. I even turned down a bunch of jobs so that I could come back,” said White.

White, along with his brother and father, formed White Pork, L.L.C. and have proposed to build a hog confinement in Caldwell Township on 610th Ave. a few miles south of Exline, which is about a half mile from the state line.

The White family plans recently caught the attention of several county residents that are opposed to the construction due to environmental issues as well as a possible decrease in surrounding land values.

Jim Jarvis, who owns land in Missouri just south of the proposed site doesn’t want another hog confinement near his home.

“I don’t want it,” said Jarvis. “I have one to the east of me and I have to smell that every day. I don’t want one to the north of me too. I’m concerned with the smell and I’m concerned with the water quality and environmental issues.”

Lawrence Richmond is the closest resident to the proposed site and has lived there for 40 years.

“I don’t want it because of the smell and the environment we’re going to have. Our land value will probably go down,” stated Richmond.

White attended Iowa State University and despite several attractive job offers, returned to the family farm in Appanoose County.

“I had two options; leave the area and get a job somewhere else and not be a part of this community, or stay here where I grew up and contribute to the community. This is the way I found that I could do that. It’s a family farm, not a two or three-family farm. That’s really what my goal is, to stay here on the farm,” White said.

According to the construction permit paperwork submitted to the Board of Supervisors, the operation will include two buildings (388 feet by 51 feet with an 8 foot below-floor manure storage pit) with a maximum capacity of 4,900 hogs.

Jeff Theobald, an environmental specialist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, was at the site Wednesday morning measuring separation distances and making sure the site would fall under strict guidelines and restrictions.

“I’m taking a look at the separation distances for the confinement,” commented Theobald. “There are certain guidelines and distances they have to meet. For example, since it’s between 1,000 and 3,000 animal units, it has to be 1,875 feet from residences and 2,500 feet from public use areas. It also has to be 1,000 feet from major water sources and 500 feet from other water sources.”

After using a GPS device to measure exact distances, Theobald commented that the site meets all the guidelines.

“Preliminary looks seem okay,” added Theobald.

Theobald and the Whites weren’t the only ones at the proposed site on Wednesday morning. Several concerned citizens and members of the recently formed group, “Iowans Down Wind” were there as well.

Lloyd LaRue, who owns property adjacent to the site, was there to voice his opinion regarding the proposed facility.

“We have several springs and we still drink the water from our own wells. I myself am on an asthmatic machine,” said LaRue. “I was not notified. I didn’t know a thing until 6 p.m. Tuesday evening. I would not have known if I hadn’t stopped at the Exline Store.”

LaRue used a map to show locations of water sources. One of his main concerns was possible run off from the confinement into area creeks, including Shoal Creek.

“You could drink water from the creek, it’s that pure,” added LaRue.

White is aware of the concerns voiced from local residents.

“We’re going to do everything we can do to be as responsible as we can,” said White. “I have three goals in mind. I want to take care of the animals, make some money and I want to be socially responsible. As a gesture of that, I’ve done everything I can to make it as friendly as possible. The manure pits will be covered. There is a facility about a mile south of where we are. They have open pits so their manure turns over quite a bit. Technically, we could have done an open pit storage system and it would have been cheaper. But as a gesture of goodness to my neighbors I wanted to do everything I could. We’re also putting in landscaping to try and keep the smell down.

“We’re close to 1,000 feet further away from anyone than we’re actually required to be.”

Another concern for area residents is where the manure will be distributed. The plans show two possible locations near Centerville – just east of where the Super Wal-Mart will be constructed south of Centerville, and north of the Pale Moon west of Centerville.

“Manure is emptied once a year. The site by the Pale Moon is about 25 miles away from the building itself, so it’s not economically feasible. The reason we put that in there was because the DNR wanted to know everything that we had. So we had to show them everything,” commented White. “It’s not that we’re necessarily going to put manure everywhere that we own or rent land. The DNR just wanted to know everywhere that we own or rent land. I’m going try to put every drop of manure on the farm that’s right there at the barn before I start hauling it because of the cost of diesel fuel. The cost to haul it 10 miles is expensive. I can’t give a specific number, but I’m hoping to get every gallon of manure on down there. It will also be knifed into the ground. There is a practice in Missouri where they can spread manure on top of the ground and there are also irrigation systems. We aren’t going to do that. We’re knifing it directly into the ground. It will go from the pit to a tank and then into the ground underneath the soil. And it’s a once a year thing.”

The Whites own about 500 acres of land in the area and due to restrictions and guidelines, the site south of Exline was one of the only spots they could build the hog confinement.

“There are strict guidelines for hog confinements. We put it there (south of Exline) because it’s the one spot we could put it on our entire farm,” White said.

Tom and Joni Davis recently moved to southern Iowa from Colorado after looking for a nice area to enjoy retirement.

“We retired from Colorado. We looked for property for about four or five years because we were living in a suburb of Denver. We wanted to go some place quiet and pretty. My wife is from Iowa originally so we looked around in Iowa,” said Tom Davis. “We found a pretty spot. We talked to the residents about if there were any hog confinements because that was one of the criteria we used for finding a place. There aren’t too many places in Iowa that don’t have one. There weren’t any here.”

The Davis property is located north of Exline and they’ve already begun laying the ground work for their home.  But after hearing the news of a possible hog confinement just a few miles away, they’re having second thoughts.

“We’re really close to building, we ran power and water and telephone to it. We’ve put a lot of money into it already. And now this pops up. Now we’re wondering, can we sell it now? Should we sell it? We’re still talking about it. It’s not what we’d hoped for, let’s just say that,” added Davis.

If the hog confinement is approved, it will be a wean to finish operation.

“It’s a wean to finish operation. We’ll get the pigs when they’re weaned and we’ll feed them until they’re ready to be processed. We’re not doing a farrowing operation,” stated White.

Some people have expressed concerns that if the confinement is approved, the Whites will settle in before selling to a large corporation.

“That’s against everything I’m trying to do. I want to stay here and farm, not sell out to some corporation,” responded White. “Me and my dad and brothers are going to do the work on the farm. I’ve also heard people say we’re going to hire a bunch of illegal workers. That’s not true, it’s just us. Me and my dad can run this facility by ourselves.”

White feels the facility is also a way to support the community.

“I think this is a way I can give back to the community. The owner of the pigs will be buying feed locally. That money that we make is going to be put back into the community. I did not expect it to be received like this. I thought people would also see the benefits,” said White.

“My whole point is that I’m trying to bring a business into Appanoose County. I want to make the point that this is a small business – a family farm. I would really appreciate people understanding that this is me, my brother and my dad,” added White.

At Monday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, the board carried a motion to hold a public hearing regarding the proposed hog confinement on Monday, July 14 at 7 p.m. at Simon Estes Auditorium in Centerville.

The construction permit application submitted by White Pork, L.L.C. is on file at the Appanoose County Auditor’s Office and is available for public inspection. The Board of Supervisors will also be accepting written comments until July 15. Comments will then be submitted to the Iowa DNR, who will have the final decision regarding the approval of the proposed operation.

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