Hughesville residents have banded together to create an official organization to help prevent a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation from opening in Pettis County.
The Pettis County Citizens for Land Protection was formed during a meeting Thursday night with about 75 in attendance, and officers and board members were elected, including Dan Tevis as president. According to a news release from the group, “the purpose of Pettis County Citizens for Land Protection is to educate the citizens of Pettis County about the negative impacts of ‘factory farms’ and to stop the proposed Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) near Hughesville.”
“That was the best attack against this organization, these type of feeding operations, is to get organized like this, that’s what we were told to do,” Jon Wise said. “That’s the best defense is to be organized and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
The group is against a proposed CAFO by United Hog Systems and farm manager Roger Nelson, who currently operates in Marshall. He told citizens during a meeting Oct. 14 he was looking to relocate because swine farms near his were contracting disease, and while he has been lucky to not have his herd infected, he doesn’t want to take that chance any longer.
If the farm goes through, it would be located on almost 400 acres on U.S. Highway 65, roughly between Kemp Road and Abney Road, in Hughesville.
According to information provided in a letter from Allied Engineering Services LLC distributed to Hughesville residents, the proposed operation would include the construction of a farrowing barn, breeding/gestation barn and gilt development barn. Proposed animal numbers are 882 sows and litters, 5,063 breeding/gestating sows and boars and 1,275 gilts. The farm will also include an office.
Wise said Hughesville citizens are concerned for a number of reasons: environmental, health, water tables and odor.
According to Pettis County Presiding Commissioner David Dick, United Hog Systems and Nelson have not submitted an application to the commission as of Friday afternoon. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources also has not received an application.
Dick said Nelson has talked with the commissioners twice, but haven’t had any contact with him since mid-October.
“I think the first time (Nelson) came was more informational,” Dick said. “He was aware there might be an ordinance but was not sure what it was, and we gave him that. The second time was the day they had the first meeting (Oct. 14) and he had talked to us about some stuff. He had some plans but it didn’t mean much because he hadn’t made an application; it was more informational on his part.”
Dick said the meetings were not scheduled; Nelson simply stopped by the commission’s office to seek information about a road running near the possible property. He was informed by the commissioners his plan would not meet the ordinance’s specifications due to a populated area being too close to the operation.
“We had let him know he didn’t qualify for 1A size, he would have to be 1B or smaller,” Dick said. “… He had said what he was doing, it was all just informational to us. He didn’t ask for anything, but we made sure he understood what the classifications were. There’s a populated area designated in there, and we brought out the maps and (Eastern Commissioner) Brent (Hampy) found (Nelson’s plans) don’t qualify for 1A because of the definition in that ordinance of populated areas.”
Wise said he and other citizens have been in contact with the commissioners to stay informed of the situation. PCCFLP does not have a specific plan in place of how to move forward, but Wise said they hope to make more decisions soon.
“We’re just getting organized. We have all the officers in place and we’ll have a meeting at my home next week amongst the officers to decide what we’re going to do, what direction we’re going to go in the future,” he said. “We’re just waiting to see what (United Hog Systems is) going to do.”
Citizens were joined Thursday by Terry Spence and Ashlen Busick from the Socially Responsive Agricultural Project. According to its website, SRAP “empowers rural communities to protect themselves from the devastating health, environmental, and economic impacts of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) or ‘factory farms.’”
Spence said the group has been assisting residents in Calloway County with a similar situation, and offered to assist PCCFLP with its efforts.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1482 or @NicoleRCooke.