The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
by Dessa Rodeffer, Quill Publisher/Editor
Henderson County Board Meets With Illinois Ag Specialists and Tri Oak Foods CEO
After rumors that a number of hog confinements were coming into Henderson County, upset residents began calling county board members with questions.
Board members, county zoning officer John Carrier, and States Attorney Ray Cavanaugh, were unaware of the situation.
According to Curt Eisenmayer (R) who serves the board with a lifelong background of agriculture, board members were showing a lot of emotions and feeling they were in the dark about what may be coming into their "back yards".
"We need to turn to state Agriculture officials and those in the hog production industry for answers rather than make assumptions about what is happening here," Eisenmayer said.
Marty Lafary (D) Chairman of the Henderson County Board agreed. "Before jumping to conclusions, we needed to know what is fact, and what is fiction and exactly what the state and county's role is in all of this."
Lafary called for an informational meeting which was held this past Friday at the Gladstone Health Department, so board members could learn from state specialists who have the legal control over confinement issues, and TriOak Foods of Oakville, Iowa was invited to explain the role of their company. The company is involved in hog confinement expansion in the Illinois-Iowa area.
"The board needs to see the entire picture and communicate their concerns, and learn how the whole process is being managed," Lafary said.
Friday morning prior to the meeting, he and Eisenmayer dropped in on a county hog confinement operation doing business with TriOak Foods in order to get a more accurate idea of what the operation was like.
"The operation was at the Darrah farm near Rozetta ("HenCo Hogs) "and I was totally impressed," Lafary said.
"You could not tell that it was even there. It was a windy day, but there was no odor. The manager said it was a huge change from the operations in the 70s when there were no rules or regulations.
"A canopy over the fans on top, diverted the air up and away, and evergreen trees blocked the view of the buildings," Lafary said.
"There are many regulations governing the construction and running of these facilities, and the finishing operation does help support taxes in the county, paying us $2700 yearly in taxes for their building."
Lafary, who manages Twomey Grain Co.'s Gladstone facility where a large fertilizer and storage operation sets near the Mississippi River, said, "Twomeys built a million dollar business to meet rules and regulations, yet "there are no rules," Lafary said, "on spraying nitrogen. We can pour it on your farm or dump a truck load in your yard and there are no rules to stop us," Lafary said.
"However, in spreading manure, there are strict regulations in the amount you can put on the ground and how often it can be applied."
At 1:30 p.m. Friday, around 60 residents attended what ended up to be a 4-hour informational meeting set up for County board members to learn about Livestock Management Facilities including TriOak Foods expansion plans for the area.
Marty Lafary welcomed people to their meeting and Curt Eisenmayer after cautioning those in attendance that this meeting was for the board to learn, not for public debate but that an opportunity for questions would be given at the end. He warned that if any one caused problems they would be shown the door.
Eisenmayer then introduced the special guests:
Details can be found on the web at www.agr.state.il.us/Environment/LMFA/index.html
Goetsch said that future facility operators must file a notice of intent to construct and the building process must be completed within 12 months of that date or they must start the application process over again.
As much as 6 of the 12 months can be taken up in receiving the approval or the permit to build due to the many requirements, he said.
The Illinois Department of Agriculture have the say over the situation, not the county because they want uniformity in the rules across the state.
As explained on Illinois Department of Agriculture website:
Act & Rules
Illinois Department of Agriculture
"The Livestock Management Facilities Act protects your right as a citizen to a safe, clean environment as well as the right of livestock farmers to earn a living.
"It concludes animal agriculture is important to Illinois' economy and should be maintained, but farmers have a responsibility to be good neighbors.
"The act, which was adopted in 1996 and amended in 1998 and 1999, also recognizes market forces are rapidly changing the livestock industry.
"Farmers increasingly are having to expand their operations to remain in business, and this trend toward expanded farms has created a need for safeguards to protect your interests and theirs.
"The Act establishes requirements for the design, construction and operation of livestock management and livestock waste-handling facilities.
"It also establishes specific procedures and criteria for the siting of such facilities and outlines the public information meeting process" required in the cases of over 1000 unit facilities.
Although the Dept. of Agriculture is not required to notify the county board if an operator files an "Intent To Construct" application under 1000 units, it does not mean that it is not being built under the same rules and regulations. It means, it does not require the county board to conduct a public hearing, so they are not notified.
However, anyone can call the Bureau of Environmental Programs and ask if an application has been filed in your county as often as you wish. It is all public record, said Jeff Squibb, Public Relations for Enviornmental issues in Springfield.
All confinements are built under the state guidelines that legislatures have passed for us to enforce, he said.
"We do not make the laws, but we are here to see that the rules and regulations are followed."
Mr. Goetsch detailed the rules for confinements which require a 1/4 mile set-back with no more than 9 residents within that 1/4 mile "donut area," he said, and 1/2 mile set-back if near a populated area with no more than 9 residents within that donut area.
Over a 1000 unit facilities require a public relations meeting within 15 days of the request.
"It is a way we glean testimony to find out if all the requirements are met like odor control, traffic flow, and compatibility issues and construction standards."
"After the public meeting, the county has to give a non-binding recommendation within 30 days, and we have 15 days to make a decision," Goetsch said.
"The Act doesn't give us the authority to turn down the application, but we have the authority not to approve it. We can send it back with corrections or recommendations."
"Since the last decade we have had 900 projects, not all new facilities, some were improvements. Out of that number, 75% were approved and 1/4th not, he said.
Out of those, approximately 60 projects qualified for public meetings. Out of those, about half were approved.
About 1/2 of those with meetings, 1/2 the time the board said "yes" (in favor of the confinements) and in two cases, the board remained neutral.
The facility requires a very detailed plan, including waste illumination, location of water stops, concrete, etc.
"We review all construction and we make sure designs meet all requirements. We check borings which may change the requirements, such as a lagoon. It may require a liner, monitoring wells, in which case quarterly samples must be taken. The state inspects everything and at the 3rd inspection, many times we go back and require corrective action.
Every facility operator with over 300 units must be trained or tested in Livestock Management, and if over 1000 must do both.
Manure management must be learned by operators as well.
"Is the Act perfect? Goetsch said, " Probably not, but it rivals many states and it is used as an example.
"Also, the Act, is not the end (of control,) of all ends, but is in addition to others already in place such as, "Thou Shalt Not Pollute" Environment Protection Act."
Ted Funk, Extension Specialist, Agricultural Engineering, takes charge of the Livestock Management Training process. There have been fewer problems as managers are trained and adopt the many things we were promoting.
He said that 26 universities compared their knowledge to come up with this training.
Richard Breckenridge, Agriculture & Rural Affairs Advisor/Illinois Environmental Protection Agency/Springfield was asked by Eisenmayer, "If there is a problem - how do we get it solved?"
Breckenridge, said, he works under The CleanWater Act where 17% of their calls are of anonymous origin.
"We call the farmer, observe the procedure, put on boots due to rigorous disease control. We announce we are here to view a complaint, and if it is a Murphy's Law type situation, we ask the producer to correct it. We return the next day or within the week and 90% of the time the problem is fixed," he said.
There has been times in Illinois where large releases in a lake or river occurred and they can be turned over to the Attorney General's office."
"It doesn't occur often because of education and aggressive action," he said.
Nic Anderson, a Livestock Business Developer explained the impact livestock has with $4 million in sales and receipts to boost Illinois economy and $399,000 in taxes for colleges, schools, and roads.
A 2400 head system can bring $3500-$4500 taxes to Henderson County which would about educate two kids through school.
Henderson County has 1 Dairy, 171 Beef, 2 Poultry, and 44 Hog operations. Most of our Economic Development comes from the Ag side, Anderson said.
Cow-calf producers are at the average, 55 years of age while pork producers are 45 years on average. In 1998, hogs took a big hit and Illinois went from being number #2 in hog production to number 4.
Livestock is a 24-hour a day job and tends not to attract farmers. As Illinois shrunk, however, Iowa, Texas, Brazil and others grew. We are large producers of corn and soybeans 50% of the grain is used by livestock and a large portion is sent to Texas. "We need to establish a base here that we can count on so we still have a market for our grain."
Why is there more development in Henderson County? Hogs are coming back to the Midwest to be centrally located to both coasts and where there is transportation and good locations.
The rising costs of anhydrous at $600 a ton have caused a lot of grain farmers to look for an alternative. You can grow your own nitrogen through manure for less.
If you have a neighbor who needs nitrogen, they may hire a hog producer to spread it for a set amount.
The goal is to meet market demands, be profitable, meet standards, and have good management of livestock and facilities. The state and producer must work together to be good neighbors at home, while helping the economy. Livestock will continue to be around for a long time, Anderson said.
Many details were discussed in the 4-hour session, Odor was one of them which "can be controlled and minimized. A lot of things help."
"Producers are an important part of the community."