top of page

Eight Letters to the Editor Call Out the Huber CAFO

Not one, not two, but EIGHT LTE's opposing the 7,497-head Daniels Site appeared in the Thursday, August 23 Fairfield Ledger. The largest hog confinement to be built in Jefferson County was proposed by Bill Huber, a partner with the grain corporation Agri-Way Partners. Agri-Way expanded into hogs in 2014 with plans to build 48 CAFOs in Southeast Iowa. This is the first in Jefferson County.

Agri-Way Partners can be likened to a small-scale Smithfield and represents a different type of CAFO ownership than the contract grower that typically raises hogs in Jefferson County.

The Jefferson County community is registering its deep concerns about the Daniels Site. Today, the Fairfield Ledger published eight letters opposing the site. We share them below. And we encourage everyone to keep writing!

What better way to lose population?

To the editor:

The government officials and citizens of Jefferson County have spent millions of dollars of public and private funds, and devoted countless hours to create an environment that attracts tourists and new residents. Multiple awards, designations, and national and state accolades have been received as a direct result of these efforts.

As far as I know, Jefferson County is one of few rural Iowa counties to gain in population since the last census. What better way to drive residents and tourists out of the county than to saturate it with hog operations, and nullify the gain that those investments of money and time have created?

We have friends who live just inside the boundary of Fairfield’s city limits. Periodically, the odor of the existing confinements reaches their home.

How many other city residents report the same? The odor is already an issue and an unacceptable trend. Isn’t it time to make an honest, non-political assessment of the value of the city and county’s investments, revenue streams, and potential threats to these, balanced against the perceived benefits and financial gain from the CAFOs? Does such an assessment already exist, and what does it show?

My husband and I are homeowners within the city limits of Fairfield. I am greatly disappointed that the supervisors agreed with the scoring of the Daniel’s site Master Matrix 7,497 hog application, and didn’t make deductions, especially for the section about manure application fields that are already part of another CAFO’s manure spread area. It seems to me that this requires more careful scrutiny.

What are the arrangements so that the land is not overloaded by multiple operations’ manure? The fact that there is no public hearing scheduled about this application is also very disturbing. This proposed CAFO would be the largest in the county. It deserves further attention from all the stakeholders especially county property owners.

– Victoria Moore, Fairfield

Not done fighting for those at risk

To the editor:

I currently live in Marshalltown, Iowa, though for 20-plus years, had a small acreage in Melbourne, Iowa. And I’d be lying if I said that the building of a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) 1.5 miles from my dream home was not a factor in leaving. Because it was.

Our local group lost the battle to halt construction; our collective legacies deemed less important than that of a single local family and a behemoth, out of state corporation.

And I am writing to express concern about the recent application and matrix that were passed by your county board of supervisors, without a public hearing, whereby the constituents who *elected* them, and who they therefore supposedly represent, would have been given voice.

Persons who live near the proposed 7,497-head finishing hog confinement, to be located 2.5 miles west of the city of Pleasant Plain in Penn Township, will suffer ill effects, the extent to which depends on one’s interpretation of the value of properties, outdoor picnics, peace of mind, clotheslines, humane treatment of sentient beings, fresh breezes, the right to build their *own* family legacies, etc.

Those who have fought for the ethical treatment of neighbors (and the environment and animals), in our own corners of this once great state are not done fighting for those currently at risk and will be keenly interested in the outcome in Jefferson County.

Genuinely hoping that the well-documented concerns about the matrix score that were presented to your board of supervisors will yet result in a critical analysis and a public hearing and that soon, somewhere in this state, elected officials represent the majority of their constituents on a matter of such import.

But, I won’t hold my breath. Not more than I do already anyway.

– Nancy Adams, Marshalltown

CAFO will negatively affect air quality

To the editor:

So William Huber, owner of the prospective confined animal feeding operation (CAFO), the largest yet to be constructed in Jefferson County, wants to assure us that air quality will not be affected except on days when liquid manure (2.2 million gallons per year!) is applied to local fields.

I suppose he also believes that the eye-watering miasma experienced when passing through Washington County (having the second largest density of CAFOs in the state) is due to ill sanitized pizza parlors; Donald Trump never lies; and the moon is made of green cheese (the non-odorous kind).

I’m reminded of a favorite limerick:

The promoters of pig farming factories

While assaulting our senses olfactory

Would like us to think

Their pig poop won’t stick

A message maliciously malefactory

– Barney Potratz, Fairfield

Can’t open windows living near CAFO

To the editor:

I am concerned about the future of Jefferson County.

Bill Huber, a businessman from Washington, has proposed building a 7,497-head hog confinement 2.5 miles west of Pleasant Plain. Mark Greiner, who lives off Pleasant Plain Road near Perlee, has applied to increase his confined animal feeding operation to 5,000 hogs.

If we do not do something now to stop the increasing number of CAFOs, our wonderful county will end up being proliferated by CAFOs like Washington County. And the quality of life for many will be greatly compromised.

I know first-hand what it is like living near a CAFO. We live three-quarters of a mile from the CAFO that was shut down. Though the farmer who owned the CAFO tried to lessen its impact on neighbors, the quality of life we all take for granted was gone.

We went from being comfortable in our home and environment to being very uncomfortable. We couldn’t open our windows because of the smell. We had to drop what we were doing and immediately go inside when the wind shifted, bringing the stench of pig manure.

Our health was affected – for me, it was skin and respiratory. The value of our property went down – who wants to live near a CAFO? The fly population increased dramatically with CAFO flies that live in stagnant manure and carry disease. When the manure was spread on the land the stench was unbearable for days. There is a big cost to the environment as well – water, air, and wildlife.

We lived near a 1,250-head CAFO with a conscientious owner, not the 5,000 and 7,497 CAFOs being proposed. The problems we experienced will be magnified greatly, and far more people will be affected by these proposed CAFOs.

I have often wondered why many people have to suffer so one person can profit. For everyone who lives within the range of a CAFO suffers in one form or another. Why does one owner have more rights than 70 or more neighbors? Is this fair or just?

Please do what you can to stop CAFOs from encroaching on our wonderful county so we can all enjoy the quality of life Jefferson County has given us for so many years!

– Bhavani Mair, Jefferson County

Land beyond its capacity for healthy living

To the editor:

It is highly discouraging that the political leaders of our state and county have been heavily taxing the land beyond its ability to support healthy living. This tax will be and has been paid by the people not only in their quality of life and health, but also in expenses for the neighbors of CAFOs - the expense of attempting to maintain their own land and air quality to a reasonable standard.

One example of this short-sighted approach to business is the recently proposed 7,497-head industrial hog confinement for Penn Township in Jefferson County. This proposal is from Mr. Bill Huber, who is not a Jefferson County resident. He has ownership interest in 21 other hog confinements in four Iowa counties.

Mr. Huber is currently in a lawsuit in Des Moines County because neighbors report odors are causing them serious harm. Yet Mr. Huber claims that his proposed 7,500-head CAFO will not smell except for when manure was applied. These current lawsuits (and the use of common sense for this size of CAFO) make it clear that Mr. Huber prefers to be blind to the impact of his actions, his ownership, and his current/future proposed property. He doesn’t live here, so he doesn’t need to consider the needs or desires of the neighbors to his CAFOs.

It is interesting that JFAN reviewed the Master Matrix scoring for this planned CAFO and found several deductions that would lead to a failing score. But the political leaders of our community would prefer to turn a blind eye to these comments and allow the standards for these CAFOs to slip.

This kind of thinking is rather welcoming to large scale companies wanting to add another CAFO toilet location to their proud list of hog factories. After all, why shouldn’t these owners of CAFOs live “high off the hog” in a place that they consider to be a much better location than Iowa?

– Anne McCollum, Fairfield

CAFOs harm people, animals, water

To the editor:

1) The scoring session for Daniels’ CAFO Master Matrix was announced via a brief Fairfield Ledger article on Aug. 7 and a tiny public notice on Aug. 9, less than a week before the Aug. 13 meeting took place. This demonstrates a lack of due process.

2) I am told that the supervisors spent time considering the objections Jefferson County Farmers and Neighbors (JFAN) raised but then decided to reject *all* of them. This demonstrates a lack of due process, a lack of common sense and possibly a bias. Details:

The Daniels site scored itself at 505 points on the Master Matrix. JFAN identified four issues for a total of 70 points that should be denied, reducing the Master Matrix to 435 points which is not enough for the application to be approved.

JFAN actually urged the supervisors to not approve any points they felt questionable because the DNR would review a failed application and make the final decision but they wouldn’t review a passed one. Supervisor Lee Dimmitt gave many of JFAN’s points a closer look. Supervisor Dee Sandquist acknowledged the Master Matrix was flawed yet felt there wasn’t precedence for using higher standards Rosenberg and others urged. In the end, Supervisor Dick Reed made a motion to pass it at the full 505 points, and all three supervisors voted in favor of granting all points.

A public hearing gives constituents an opportunity to speak out about a proposed CAFO and potentially provide additional information for the supervisors to consider in scoring the Master Matrix. By denying a public hearing, the supervisors have cut themselves off from public redress and further education on the issues.

3) I favor animal farms but oppose animal factories. I oppose CAFOs because they degenerate the health of people, animals, and our water. Details:

The EPA states that confined hogs generate three times the amount of raw waste as humans. If you live within 2 miles of a CAFO, your air may stink. If you live near a field where manure will be applied, it may stink there too. Numerous studies done by the University of North Carolina show that people living within two miles of a CAFO tend to experience wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, excessive coughing, nausea, diarrhea, sore throat, eye irritation, headache, runny nose and weakness.

The DNR impaired water list shows that (1) children can’t play in many streams without concerns of exposure to E. coli or other bacteria produced by manure being washed into the stream and (2) Iowa has some of the worst waterways in the nation due to the 751 manure spills that have occurred since 1996. (DNR statistics)

We need to re-evaluate the Daniels Site Master Matrix.

– Mac Muehlman, Fairfield

What are they thinking?

To the editor:

As a Jefferson Country resident and property owner, I cannot stand by and allow the three members of the board of supervisors to override all reason and responsibility in their approval of Bill Huber’s super-CAFO to be built here, exposing our water, soil, and air to the worst pollutants of what is gamely referred to as “industrial agriculture.”

What in the world are they thinking to go against all the safeguards available through the Department of Natural Resources to protect Iowa citizens from such irreversible outcomes? Evidently, they don’t believe in science and the agricultural practices recommended by university experts to prevent these dangerous “businesses” from turning Iowa into China’s toilet.

Dee Sandquist, Lee Dimmitt, and Dick Reed need to get their heads out of the sand and wake up to the possible disaster of another Flint, Michigan. For if that happens, what will they do? Wring their hands in despair and say, “We didn’t know?”

– Stephanie Rivera, Fairfield

Concerned about waste from CAFO

To the editor:

I am extremely concerned with the expansion of hog confinements in Jefferson County where I’ve lived most of my life.

The public health risks posed by water polluted by livestock manure are essentially the same as those posed by human sewage. Many of the same chemicals and biological organisms that pose health risks from exposure to untreated human sewage also pose risks to human health from exposure to raw untreated hog sewage.

Raw untreated hog sewage generates over 150 gases, many of which are harmful, including ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, plus another 150 toxins. The animal waste from 2,500 hogs in a confinement feeding operation, the minimum size to be classified as a CAFO, is equivalent to the human waste from a municipality of 8,000 to 10,000 people.

There are logical reasons for requiring sophisticated, multi-stage waste treatment systems whenever 8,000 to 10,000 people choose to residence in close proximity and form a municipality. These same reasons raise legitimate public concerns when the feces and urine from 2,500 hogs is being stored and spread untreated on farmland. The chemical and biological wastes can seep into groundwater to pollute the wells of rural residents and can run off fields into streams that provide drinking water for municipalities on their way to oceans. A class I CAFO of 17,500 hogs produces as much raw sewage as a city of 55,000 to 70,000 people.

Defenders of factory farms claim that operators of CAFOs are responsible stewards of the environment. They extoll the virtues of traditional, independent family farmers in their commitment to caring for the land and caring about the well-being of their neighbors. Even if this is true, it is simply not possible to manage the concentration of manure associated with large-scale confinement animal feeding operations without sophisticated waste treatment facilities. Furthermore, under the contractual agreements typical of CAFOs, the corporate contractor, not the contract producer, dictates the size and construction of production facilities that place an unmanageable manure disposal burden on the contract producer.

As a last defense, CAFO operators claim they are doing a better job of manure management than the traditional independent farmers they replaced. However, water quality statistics tell a different story. In 1998 the EPA found 35,000 miles of streams in 22 states and ground water in 17 states that had been polluted by industrial livestock operations.

According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, there has been almost a three-fold increase in “impairments” of water bodies between 2002 and 2012, years when factory livestock operations were rapidly replacing independent family farms.

The evidence is clear; the spreading of raw sewage from factory farms is threatening the quality of drinking water. This is a great concern for my family. I would hope other residents of Jefferson County feel the same way for the sake of your family members.

I ask residents of our community in Jefferson County, are you willing to sacrifice the water quality in your community? If not, let’s actively pursue and vote for those who respect our desire to live in a community with high standards for water and air quality that support both human and animal life.

– Michael Moore, Fairfield

bottom of page