Letter: Forum to examine need for local siting control - Quad-Cities Online: Editorials

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Letter: Forum to examine need for local siting control

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Posted: Tuesday, August 4, 1998 1:00 am

There is a proposed amendment to the Livestock Management Facilities Act ``granting local siting control of livestock facilities of more that 500 animal units.'' As a swine over 55 pound is .4 of an animal unit and a swine under 55 pounds is .03 or an animal unit, you can see that the local control would apply to the mega-hog confinements.

The Henry County Board has granted us a forum to discuss local control of siting of mega-hog confinements. This public forum will be 7 p.m. August 17 at Southwest Elementary School in Geneseo. At this forum, both proponents and opponents of factory hog confinement will be there to explain their viewpoints and there will be a time for questions from the public.

I feel we need ``local control of siting'' of the mega-hog confinements for a number of reasons. Above all it is needed because under current state law, the Livestock Management Facilities Act, there is no adequate protection for our environment or the quality of life of its residents. Senate bill 1707 was introduced in the 1998 spring legislative session. It passed with no opposition in the Senate, was gutted, rewritten, and passed overwhelmingly in the House, but when sent back to the Senate for consideration, wasn't called for a vote. If passed, this bill would have, among other things, allowed the Illinois EPA to inspect facilities instead of the Dept. of Agriculture, allowed local control over construction, made owners and corporations liable for spills prohibited construction over 100 year flood plains, near aquifers and over karst soil. In my opinion these changes are greatly needed.

As it is written now all that protects the neighbors of confinements are the ability to complain to the EPA and the minimum required ``setbacks.'' These are 1/2 mile from a populated area and 1/4 mile from a non-farm residence for a facility over 50 but under 1,000 animal units, and 1 mile from a populated area and 1/2 mile from a non-farm residence for a facility over 7,000 animal units. As the se-backs are measured from the nearest corner of the confinement or lagoon, whichever is closer, to the nearest corner of the neighbors home, the neighbors own land is considered as the buffer between the confinement and the home. (Livestock Management Facilities Act, Sections 35 (1), (3), (5 A,B)

In addition, local control of siting is desperately needed as the Livestock Management Facilities Act does not in any way address the development plans of a county, There may be areas that a county has targeted for residential expansion, recreation, or tourism and the counties should have the right to protect their interests.

Why are so many people concerned about this? Murphy Farms is expanding into Henry County. There have already filed ``intent to construct'' on four 3,300-head facilities in Henry County. ``Corporate interests are targeting 20 or more 3,600 sow facilities for central Illinois alone. Each of these facilities, ....need at least 5 nurseries and up to a dozen hog-finishing confinements to support them.'' (Three Guest Commentaries, by Bruce St. John, Sept. 16-18, 1997)

In states where factory hog expansion has occurred, the small farmer has been hurt tremendously. Very often ``vertical integration'' has taken place where the corporate interests control all aspects of the industry. In ``Hogs Today'' it was reported that, in North Carolina where vertical integration has reached 50 percent packers were paying $51 per hundred weight for hogs purchased from large producers, and only $39 per hundred weight on the open market. In some states independent producers have found themselves locked out of the market because packers have filled their quotas with large contracts.

The following states, North Carolina (home of Murphy Farms), Maine, Oklahoma, and Mississippi currently have moratoriums against future hog confinement development. Nebraska, which has the strongest anti-corporate farming legislation also has the greatest retention of independent pork producers.

What can we do? By all means start doing research. We have a web-site available, http://goodneighbor.geneseo.net, start searching our links. The information available on what is happening in our state and others is alarming. Also attend our forum on August 17. Contact you county board members. Insist that democracy take place on the state and local level!

Barbara Burghgrave, Geneseo, Henry County Good Neighbor Alliance

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