About 60 residents from the Hughesville area turned out for an impromptu town hall meeting Wednesday night about a proposed confined animal feeding operation.
The three-building sow farm, which will produce weaned pigs, is planned to be located on almost 400 acres on U.S. Highway 65, roughly between Kemp Road and Abney Road, in Hughesville. Z-7 Sow Farm is owned by United Hog Systems in Marshall. The meeting was organized by Bill Claycomb and John Bruce, two local residents who are strongly opposed to the farm.
“I wanted to inform neighbors of what is proposed for this farm, people within two miles,” Claycomb told the Democrat of why he organized the meeting. He said there are five main reasons for concern: water quality and quantity, land value, odor, and water runoff.
Most in attendance seemed the most concerned about the water issue, with many asking how it would affect wells on their own properties once the farm was in place and drilling its own large wells. Some cited problems in La Monte and Dresden caused by the Tyson Food Inc. plant, worried that a similar situation could take place in Hughesville.
Farm Manager Roger Nelson was in attendance and said his operation would use between 16,000 and 20,000 gallons of water a day, and that two engineers who had checked the property said the wells were at about 500 feet and would produce the amount of water needed, although residents disputed that claim was possible.
Nelson said the operation will be an open pen system, with each sow getting 22 to 24 square feet to roam.
“This system is all fed by computer…” Nelson added, saying it won’t have as much noise as an operation that only feeds certain times of day. “This feeds 24 hours a day. State of the art. Every sow is trained to go through a computer feeder system.”
Bruce cited some information he said he found on the Internet, although it was not made clear where the information was specifically from, that offered estimates of land devaluation after a confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) was built.
“That’s pretty frightening to me,” Bruce said of the estimates, ranging from a 6.6 percent decrease for property within three miles of a CAFO to an 88 percent decrease within one-tenth of a mile of a CAFO.
Allen Dierking, a member of the Missouri Pork Producers Association Board of Directors, said he has two hog barns in Saline County and lives in Marshall. He said he is friends with some people who neighbor Nelson’s current operations in Saline, and the neighbors told Dierking “the impact is minimal.”
Nelson said they chose the Hughesville site because “the land was available,” and there is no available land in Saline.
While the residents were concerned about the effect on their property and livelihood, they seemed more focused on how to stop the farm from even being constructed. Ideas ranged from contacting state and U.S. senators and representatives, and talking to the Pettis County Commission, to even hiring a lawyer if the issue got that far. Although, Claycomb noted litigation would be the last line of defense: “We need to stop it before it starts,” he said.
According to a letter sent to residents in the vicinity from Allied Engineering Services LLC, proposed animal numbers are 882 sows and litters, 5,063 breeding/gestating sows and boars and 1,275 gilts. The property will also include an office, and Nelson said he plans to live on the land.
Claycomb said he obtained a copy of the Pettis County ordinance regarding a CAFO, and he claims the proposed farm does not meet the ordinance’s specifications. According to Claycomb’s calculations, the operation will be classified as 1A due to the number of animal units — 2.5 swine is considered one animal unit. The ordinance states a 1A CAFO cannot be constructed within two miles of a “populated” area, however, the North Lodge subdivision, consisting of about 28 homes, is located about 1.5 miles from the proposed farm site, according to Bruce and Claycomb.
When asked if the numbers in the letter were correct, Nelson said there may be some changes, as the engineer was not aware of the ordinance requiring a certain number of animal units within two miles of a populated area.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1482 or @NicoleRCooke.