Neighbors concerned about hog farm

Large farrowing facility proposed for Jones Road site

By Ashley Bunton -

Residents in Paint Township say they think a plan for a proposed hog facility along Jones Road stinks.

Duane Matthews, a Fayette County farmer and Paint Township Trustee, owns the land along Jones Road that is proposed to be the site for the new facility.

“There’s about 20 acres that I’m selling,” said Matthews.

Matthews said the proposed hog facility will house 2,400 hogs and be used for farrowing.

Hog houses, as they are sometimes referred to, are used for different specialized hog enterprises. In a hog farrowing facility a sow typically produces a litter of eight to nine piglets every six months, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. The piglets are generally kept with the sow for lactation until they are weaned at two to three weeks.

The residents who live on Jones Road said they are concerned about having the proposed hog farrowing facility built along their road.

Roger LeBeau and his family have lived on Jones Road for over 40 years. LeBeau is a Fayette County grain farmer and auxiliary deputy sheriff for the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office.

He said their home is about a half-mile from where the manure would be produced and that the land where the manure would be knifed into the top soil sits about 300 feet from his house.

“There will be times when they’re cleaning out the manure lagoon and spreading the manure and it’s going to stink. I am downwind,” said LeBeau.

LeBeau said his family is his first priority. His daughter, Amy J, has muscular dystrophy.

“My handicapped daughter lives in this house and this is going to affect her. I’m concerned about the detriment to Amy J’s health,” said LeBeau.

LeBeau said Amy J is well known in the community and used to show horses at the Fayette County Fair. He said only a few cars drive down Jones Road a day, and prior to 2000, Amy J drove herself up and down the road in a motorized wheelchair.

“After 2000, when she had a medical issue and about died, she was no longer able to sit up. Now she lays down and we push her up and down the road. We love to take walks when possible, nearly everyday. She’s laying down and looking up at the sky and jets and it’s great,” said LeBeau.

LeBeau said the manure smell from the lagoon and the spreading of it is going to be pretty ripe.

“We don’t want to see this road turned into a traffic thoroughfare or have to endure the smell of manure. Having this facility this close to my daughter and downwind from it is going to be unbearable for Amy J and all of us,” said LeBeau.

Matthews said he knows of Amy J, but said, “She doesn’t come outside, she gets all she needs inside.”

Matthews said he lives a few miles north of Jones Road in Bloomingburg and wanted to put the hog farrowing facility near there, but it would be close to his other hog facility. Matthews said hog facilities are generally built to be about five miles apart.

“It’s got to be so far apart from other operations. It has to be so far apart because of water, disease, things like that. Everything is going to be safe. It will be contained, it will be spread to inject into the ground, tilled in, to prevent run-off,” said Matthews.

John Schlichter, Ohio Deputy Director of Agriculture, said a proposed hog facility with 2,400 hogs would not be large enough to require a permit.

“They are not required to have a permit because they are under the size required to have a permit. The number of hogs is 2,500-hog to have a permit,” said Schlichter.

Ohio Revised Code stipulates a facility operator with 2,500 hogs or more is required to have a “permit to install” and “permit to operate” from the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Schlichter said that number of hogs in the ORC is reflected by the Federal Clean Water Act.

“As far as run-off or discharge, if that happens we would get a complaint. Local Soil and Water Conservation would investigate any complaints,” said Schlichter. “There are steps in place that if manure reached the water that it would be investigated.”

Hog facilities that meet the 2,500 number are required to have a Manure Management Plan that would include methods of minimizing odors and manure distribution and utilization methods. Hog facilities under the required number of hogs can optionally choose to get a permit.

Matthews said he will continue to own the land surrounding the proposed location of the hog farrowing facility. He said this is where he would be able to use the manure from the hog farrowing facility on the crops.

“[The manure] will be used for fertilizer, basically natural like we’re supposed to be using, organic,” said Matthews.

Joe Logan, a northwest Ohio farmer and president of the Ohio Farmers Union, said contracted third parties to remove manure from hog facilities means that the facility operator does not have to assure the proper application rates, or that the field he would intend to apply to would have the proper soil test.

“What happens in the fields around a very large facility like this is that the soil tests for phosphorous and other elements tend to get very high very quickly. With this distribution and utilization plan, it’s not the problem of the facility operator, it’s the third party’s problem,” said Logan.

The manure creates the fertilizer and nutrient run-off that make its way into the water, and that can create nerve toxins, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

“When nitrogen and phosphorous come into contact with water, they can create blue-green algae. The blue-green algae can create the neurotoxin called microcystin,” said Logan.

Logan pointed to what is happening in Grand Lake St. Mary’s, Ohio, where nutrient run-off from animal farms has contaminated the lake, sickened people and killed animals who have had contact with the toxic water.

“We do have a concern that it is not good economically, not good socially, and not good environmentally to have livestock facilities concentrated in such a way,” said Logan.

Dal Craig-Crawford lives next door to where the new hog farrowing facility would be built. She said she thinks the hog farrowing facility will result in a general negative change to the environment and atmosphere.

“I feel betrayed, very angry and hurt by the long-term leasing of land right next door to us for a mega-hog operation. I’m concerned about the increased traffic and destruction of our road, decrease in property value, water table problems, potential pollution of our creek, odor, flies and rodents,” said Craig-Crawford.

The National Association of Boards of Health reported that groundwater can become contaminated from “runoff from land application of manure” and is a risk to drinking water in rural areas.

The residents on Jones Road said they get all of their water from wells but Matthews maintained that the operation is safe.

“If it wasn’t safe I wouldn’t be doing this. It’s all under EPA guidelines, it’s under Agriculture. It’s all going to be contained,” said Matthews.

“We oversee agriculture pollution from non-permitted facilities. From what I understand this facility with 2,400 hogs would not be permitted,” said Matt Lane, the state conservation technical services manager at the Division of Soil and Water Conservation at the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

“If there’s a complaint, there’s an obligation that livestock owners need to follow a set of standards of how they handle their manure, how they apply their manure, and if they don’t follow those standards and there’s pollution to the waters of the state, that’s a violation of the law,” said Lane.

“Facilities like this are being built across rural Ohio with no requirements to prevent them from polluting our streams or groundwater,” said Adam Rissien, the Ohio Environmental Council Director of Clean Water.

“These operations skirt existing rules by housing all their animals in separate locations so they fall below the number where regulations would ever apply. We have no idea how many livestock operations have gamed the system this way because the state doesn’t even track them,” said Rissien.

LeBeau said he grew up a half-mile around the corner and that it was a different era when hogs were last raised on Jones Road.

“In the 50’s even we had hogs, everyone had hogs. We had a few cows, we had a few sheep. There haven’t been any hogs on Jones Road for over 20 years. They used to have hogs where they are going to build this barn, but nothing of that magnitude and size,” said LeBeau.

Dan Drake, a farmer and Fayette County Assistant Prosecutor, said that in the 15 years he and his wife have been living on Jones Road, there haven’t been hogs raised in the area.

“This is industrialized farming that has not happened there in the past. Now we are going to have a huge impact from this, this is not like the mom-and-pop farmers who have had hogs in the past,” said Drake. “There’s never been that high of a concentration of hogs in that area. The demand on agriculture to increase the number of output, the concentration increases the impact on the environment. It’s different if you have 100 or 200 hogs, this is 2,400 hogs,” said Drake.

Matthews said the proposed hog farrowing facility will be locally owned and operated by John Surber.

Surber owns and operates Premier Solutions. He did not return several calls for comment.

According to the Premier Solutions website, there are several branches of the business: Premier Feed LLC, Premier Grain LLC, and Feed The World LLC. Premier Solutions was originally a grain, feed and fertilizer company called Sabina Farmers Exchange.

The business has expanded from operating in three Ohio counties to operating across the world. According to the website, Feed The World, LLC, shipped its first air-freighted load of pigs out of Clinton County to Russia in October of 2012.

Matthews said the pigs from the proposed hog farrowing facility on Jones Road would be for food.

“As soon as they’re born, like in 21 days, they’ll move to another location, somewhere else. They’ll ship them someplace else to be raised up for slaughtering,” said Matthews.

Matthews said the hog farrowing barn will be able to do more than just provide food.

“It’s going to create some jobs, it’s going to help bring grain prices up,” said Matthews.
Large farrowing facility proposed for Jones Road site

By Ashley Bunton

Reach Ashley at the Record-Herald (740) 313-0355 or on Twitter @ashbunton

Reach Ashley at the Record-Herald (740) 313-0355 or on Twitter @ashbunton