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Hog confinement battle proceeds in Callaway County

Hog confinement battle proceeds in Callaway County

July 4th, 2014 in News

Nancy Rice signs a petition in opposition of a potential hog confinement on Horstmeier Farms in Kingdom City. Eichelberger Farms, an Iowa-based company, is planning to build the confinement which can house up to 7,600 sows and 2,720 swine.

Photo by Brittany Ruess

Shirley Kidwell signed a document in 1999 with nine other Callaway County residents and Gary Horstmeier, owner and operator of Horstmeier Farms in Kingdom City, which she said prevents a potential hog confinement site coming to Callaway County.

She signed another document Wednesday - fifteen years later - which she hopes will have the same, continuing effect.

It's a petition fighting a hog confinement that could house more than 10,000 pigs located on a 20-acre plot of Horstmeier Farms. In 1994, community uproar halted the installation of a 50,000 hog confinement on Horstmeier Farms, and five years later (in 1999) an agreement was signed between parties that is adding fuel to current opposition.

On Wednesday, Jeff Jones, spokesman for the opposition group Friends For Responsible Agriculture, started circulating the petition, which lists the following concerns:

•"Adverse impact of out-of-state corporate farming on local agriculture;"

•Health effects on Callaway County citizens;

•Air and water pollution within the county;

•Property devaluation;

•"Loss of community values of neighborliness that include: reciprocity, respect, honesty and shared identity;"

•Negative effects on quality of life and enjoyment for residents within and around Callaway County.

Jones said about 500 people signed the petition on Wednesday and felt there was "a lot of interest."

Kidwell was one of the residents who received a letter in May, stating Eichelberger Farms, an Iowa-based company, wanted to build the operation within 3,000 feet of her home. Kidwell said she was shocked when reading the letter, remembering the agreement she signed in 1999.

That agreement states operators, defined as Gary Horstmeier, will "not construct, operate, expand or in any way participate in the operation of any concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) or animal processing facility (APF) located within five miles of the existing Callaway County facility."

Jones said the potential site would be two and a half miles from the Horstmeier's current hog facility.

There's another aspect of this situation, Jones said, that conflicts with the agreement.

"This agreement shall be binding upon, and inure to the benefit and detriment of all heirs, assignees or purchasers of the Operators' facility and the Homeowners property located in the immediate vicinity of the Operators' facility," the agreement states.

Ann Hagan, a hired attorney for Friends of Responsible Agriculture, said if Eichelberger Farms builds a hog confinement on Horstmeier Farms, Eichelberger is considered a purchaser and therefore the Horstmeiers would be in breach of contract. She added that the group is prepared to take legal action, but "obviously nobody wants to go to court."

She advised "Friends" to move forward with the petition in order to raise community awareness of the grass roots campaign.

Darren Horstmeier, who runs Horstmeier Farms with his father, Gary, gave no comment.

During his first stop Wednesday, Jones received a call from David Eichelberger. Jones said David Eichelberger told him the petition did not affect his decision to pursue the hog confinement.

"I mean, you're going to be changing people's lives forever," Jones said to David Eichelberger over the phone Wednesday morning.

After their conversation, Jones said he received a text from David Eichelberger, requesting that all petition signers include the distance between their residence and the potential hog site. The petition also includes a space for an address.

Despite what Jones called a lack of interest from Eichelberger, he hopes the petition will showcase the interest and concern in the Callaway County community and beyond.

"There's a lot of power in the signature," Jones said.

Jones added that David Eichelberger was not aware of the agreement until Friends of Responsible Agriculture brought it to his attention.

As of Wednesday, Eichelberger Farms had not submitted a permit application to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

If Eichelberger Farms brings another facility to Callaway County (two smaller operations already exist), Kidwell said she will live 2,500 feet away from the site. Currently, she said she's about one mile away. She has concerns about runoff containing waste pouring into her three-acre pond where she fishes with her family and an increased foul odor.

"The odor is so strong," Kidwell said, adding she won't sleep in rooms if the windows are open.

Dr. Steve Menke, a veterinarian who has worked with Eichelberger Farms, previously replied to community questions and wrote: "Published data indicates detectable odor at 1,250 feet or less."

Foul odors are also a worry of Dale and Sandy Fischer, a couple who signed the agreement in 1999. The current hog farm is visible from their backyard.

Sandy Fischer said they don't entertain guests at their home because the smell is unpredictable and embarrassing.

"We've lived with it for 20 years and we don't want to live with it the rest of our lives," Sandy Fischer told the Fulton Sun on Wednesday.