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Supervisors Approve Hill View Master Matrix

On Monday, May 18, the Jefferson County Board of Supervisors passed the Hill View Master Matrix during a public hearing that drew a standing-room-only crowd. Hill View is expanding its operation from 1800 to 3600 hogs on Salina Road in Buchanan Township.

We want to thank everyone who came to the public hearing. Those opposed to factory farms outnumbered the pro-CAFO attendees. Even though it was a disappointing ruling, our elected officials and local pork producers saw that there are many people in Jefferson County who recognize the hazards of factory farms and don’t want them in their community.

The supervisors took comments for 30 minutes allowing 2 minutes per person. Read JFAN’s comments here. All but two comments, those from Jacob and Tom Adam and another Adam supporter, spoke out against CAFOs.

Over these last several weeks, JFAN conducted a complete and detailed analysis of the Master Matrix. Ultimately, we found six questions that were problematic: two for separation distances and four pertaining to questions that required design, operation and maintenance plans. The plans in the Hill View application were scanty outlines that were, in our opinion, insufficient.

In contrast, the supervisors felt the plans were adequate. Supervisor Dick Reed remarked that he had been out to the Hill View site during the DNR’s site visit and said it was a “a fantastic operation, a good looking operation, an opportunity for these people to stay on the farm. These people stand proud.” He added, "A picture says a thousand words.”

While the current operation may be clean looking and neat, our recommendations were based on examining the quality of the Hill View Master Matrix and reviewing past failed Master Matrix applications where the same supervisors denied points on many of the same questions. In those cases, the plans provided more information than the Hill View plans had. The DNR agreed with their decisions at those times.

When the DNR fails a Master Matrix, they provide feedback on each question, and we reviewed this information in order to determine what would be considered an acceptable answer. In addition, JFAN spoke with the DNR to gauge the suitability of some answers. We obtained copies of other Master Matrixes the DNR passed containing the same questions and shared them with the BOS. We urged them to compare the quality of those answers with the Hill View application.

During the scoring section of the public hearing, Supervisor Becky Schmitz said that while she originally had the same concerns as JFAN regarding the adequacy of the plans, she went through it point by point with owner Tom Adam that morning and found it had the same information contained in the longer descriptions of the model Master Matrix. Clearly, we are not in agreement here.

During the meeting, Reed commented that the DNR had no problems with the CAFO during the site visit, aside from a separation distance to some water. We pointed out to the BOS at one of the scoring meetings that DNR field officers who conduct site visits do not have the expertise or responsibility to review construction permits or a Master Matrix, but are there to check for separation distances and site suitability.

Frankly, we don’t understand why the supervisors did not hold this Master Matrix to the same standards they held previous matrices. We feel that the BOS has lowered the bar for what is now acceptable Master Matrix documentation.

The DNR engineer reviewed the rest of the construction permit application. JFAN had some concerns, apart from the Master Matrix, that we brought to the engineer’s attention. However, it was the DNR’s opinion that the construction permit application was sufficient.

It’s important to stand up against factory farms when they intrude on people’s lives. The laws that govern what communities can do are limited. The Master Matrix is one of the few regulatory tools that we have, but that, too, is limited. We encourage you to contact your state legislators to demand more stringent regulations, greater separation distances, local control, and a moratorium on new CAFO development in Iowa. They need to hear that you want something better for your community and Iowa. The BOS also needs to hear that agricultural interests are not the only interests in our county.

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