Fairfield Ledger

Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 19, 2018

Public hearing held for CAFO

Confinement seeks to double to almost 5,000 head of hogs
By Jon Gilrain, Ledger correspondent | Aug 30, 2018

The Jefferson County Supervisors held a public hearing Tuesday evening to hear from county residents regarding a proposed expansion to a confinement operation about 6 miles northeast of Fairfield on Olive Avenue.

A confinement, also known as a confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) raises hundreds and often thousands of animals for market.

The meeting, held in the courtroom of the Jefferson County Courthouse, was standing room only with well over 100 people attending. Present from the county were supervisors Dick Reed and Dee Sandquist, and elections clerk Abbie DeKleine. Supervisor Lee Dimmitt had a previously scheduled committee meeting and was unable to attend.

The confinement is owned by Mark Greiner and RWP LLC, who are applying for an expansion of an existing operation. The proposed expansion would double the facility from 2,499 hogs to 4,998.

The proposed expansion, coupled with the recently approved Huber Slats facility (which will be the biggest in the county at 7,497 hogs), has raised concerns about the effect of confinements on the quality of life.

Tuesday’s crowd represented a broad spectrum of county residents, and more than two dozen of them spoke. The format allowed three minutes for each person to address the board, and while applause was discouraged, that rule was largely ignored.

Some residents delivered prepared statements while others spoke off the cuff. Many were impassioned, but on the whole a high bar of civility was maintained. Many perspectives were shared on both sides of the issue. Aside from moderating the event, the supervisors listened and did not make any statements for or against the speakers or the issues.

The Master Matrix scoring process for the confinement began on Monday with an initial scoring session. In addition to the initial scoring and the public hearing, supervisor Dick Reed will accompany the Department of Natural Resources on a site-inspection before the final scoring.

The DNR’s Master Matrix is a process established by the state to measure a proposed confinement’s adherence to state requirements regarding the construction and operation of a confinement facility. The applicant scores their operation which is then verified by the state. Counties then have the opportunity to score it themselves.

Many of those who spoke Tuesday evening pointed to the Master Matrix process as being designed to favor prospective confinement owners and not meeting the quality of life needs of the state’s rural residents. Local dairy farmer Francis Thicke spoke to this point.

“When I served a four-year term on the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission, I heard many accounts of people whose lives were turned upside down when a CAFO moved into the neighborhood,” he said. “Some had to seal their houses air tight, some had to live in their basements and some had to abandon their homes completely and move elsewhere.”

Local organic farmer and entrepreneur Dean Goodale recently formed a new company called New Legacy Pork with the aim of creating production protocols that would serve as a win-win solution to farmers and the community, according to Goodale.

Goodale expressed frustration at having worked with Greiner to come up with alternative and sustainable farming methods for the large numbers of hogs to be raised. Goodale said Greiner was open to working with him, but Goodale’s company was not developed enough to meet Greiner’s needs.

“We should’ve been ready. As a community, we had an opportunity to be ready. We dropped the ball. This CAFO didn’t have to happen and I don’t think all of the blame should be laid at Mark’s feet,” Goodale concluded.

Jefferson County Farmers & Neighbors executive director Diane Rosenberg spoke to the specifics of the current scoring, calling out the four items that JFAN felt shouldn’t receive points which, taken together, would fail the Master Matrix.

Rosenberg urged the board to use higher standards than required by the Master Matrix process in judging the items and to send it back to the DNR for review. Earlier this month, the supervisors rejected similar arguments from Rosenberg, choosing to score the measure by established standards.

“As you decide what level of standards you feel are high enough, I want you to think about the impacts of CAFOs on the health, quality of life, property values and the environment that are well documented in over 50 years of respected studies,” she said.

The final scoring for this Master Matrix will be 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 12 at the Jefferson County Courthouse.

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