Courier Staff Writer
Eldon and Batavia citizens are banding together to stop two new hog confinement operations from moving in.
The KD Center in Eldon was filled Friday night with community members against the proposed CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) to be located on the border of Wapello and Jefferson Counties.
After a tense Wapello County Board of Supervisors meeting two weeks ago where neighbors voiced their concerns, the supervisors told the crowd they needed to take their worries higher, to state officials, legislators and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
Nick Adam, of Batavia, applied to the supervisors for a construction permit for the CAFOs, which will be called Valley View Swine. The Adam family — which consists of Nick and his two sons, Shawn and Jeff — has proposed building two 2,480-head deep-pit swine finisher confinement barns, one near 6226 Wapello-Jefferson Road (two miles southwest of Batavia) in May and the other near 2297 45th Street (four miles southwest of Batavia) in August.
“We haven’t been approved yet, but we’re meeting all the requirements,” Jeff Adam said following the meeting. “The state has approved many buildings the same as ours. I don’t see how they can’t approve ours, but anything is possible. We’re following the law, and we’re not doing anything wrong.”
The opposing group has expressed concerns that the odor will deter tourism from the area, particulates in the air will harm neighbors, workers and children and neighbors could see a 40 percent drop in property value.
“The good news is they haven’t built it yet,” said Davis County farmer Garry Klicker, who lives 15 miles south of Eldon and is surrounded on all sides by 20,000 hogs. “I’m going to be 67 next month, and I have environmentally induced asthma. There’s nothing in my environment that would cause asthma except for these CAFOs.”
Klicker said many have asked him why he doesn’t move away. But when he put his property up for sale, he didn’t receive a single offer. He then moved his house up on a hill to catch a breeze, which he said helped. But the house still won’t sell.
“I can’t move, I can’t stay. What am I supposed to do?” he said. “All I can do is come here, talk to you and tell you what it’s like.”
Adam said the state of Iowa considered all potential hazards when setting regulations.
“The state of Iowa probably did a lot of research on that before they would put anybody’s health at risk,” Adam said. “We’re going above and beyond what the state requires. But they don’t seem to think so.”
The IDNR has the final say in approving or not approving a CAFO.
University of Missouri professor emeritus Dr. John Ikerd said the issue of CAFOs has always been controversial and “inevitably splits a community apart.”
“In the past, there was good reason for controversy because we really didn’t know what the consequences were going to be,” Ikerd said. “They were promoted as the future of agriculture. But the time for controversies has passed. We’ve had CAFOs for about 60 years. The consequences are basically the same for all types of operations wherever they’ve been.”
He said that CAFOs displace more family farmers and independent livestock producers than any jobs the operations could create.
“Every community is a little bit different, but the consequences are pretty much the same,” he said. “It’s always this promise that CAFOs are a rural economic development strategy and the future of agriculture, but those promises have consistently proven to be empty.”
Ikerd cited several studies done on CAFOs and their effects, including displacing nearby farmers and producers, posing health risks in the form of E. coli, salmonella and more, and the animal waste producing disease-causing pathogens.
“Animal waste can be 10 to 100 times as concentrated as human waste,” he said. “More than 40 diseases can be transmitted to humans through manure. The biological waste of 10,000 hogs is comparable to the human waste from a city of 30,000 people.”
Soil scientist and USDA Extension national program leader Dr. Francis Thicke said the problem with CAFOs is not the manure itself but the liquid pits the manure is placed in.
“It turns anaerobic and putrefies,” he said. “If the fans are turned off for a short amount of time, the hogs can all die and the workers can die because it’s so toxic.”
He also said that 30 percent of CAFO workers have respiratory problems and neighbors tend to display similar symptoms.
“Neighbors also have significantly higher rates of tension, depression, anger and fatigue,” Thicke said. “They have significantly elevated levels of headaches, runny noses, sore throat, coughing, diarrhea and burning eyes.”
Those against the CAFOs have launched a website to further their efforts: www.stopnickadam.org. Cardinal School District Superintendent Joel Pedersen noted that the district does not support or sponsor the website and remains neutral on the issue.