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What the proposed Clarksburg CAFO means for residents and the surrounding area

What the proposed Clarksburg CAFO means for residents and the surrounding area

February 21st, 2018 by Allen Fennewald in Local News

Tipton East, a proposed class 1C CAFO operation, would be housed on 25 acres in Cooper County, currently owned by Dean Gibson, within a mile north of the Moniteau County line near Clarksburg.

Tipton East would be Pipestone's seventh facility in Missouri.

Under 1C classification, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources limits livestock to 2,500-7,499 for swine weighing more than 55 pounds and 10,000-29,000 for swine weighing fewer than 55 pounds. A C1 CAFO must have a buffer of 1,000 feet from neighbors and notify neighbors residing within 1,500 feet when an application is submitted.

According to the application, the operation on Renshaw Drive on the southern edge of Cooper County will consist of a gestation building housing 4,704 sows, a farrowing building housing 1,080 sows and a gilt-development unit for 1,620 females weighing more than 55 pounds and 324 nursery pigs.

Williams said four Iowa companies would receive piglets from Tipton East for their finishing operations in Iowa, and a fifth company would own the property while Pipestone System manages the farrowing operation and facilities.

The four companies invested in the Tipton East hogs will receive annual portions of an expected 160,000 weaned piglets, estimated at a value of $6.4 million in sales.

Pipestone System representative and partial owner of Pipestone Veterinary Services, Steve Menke, said the operation would employ about 17 full-time workers. Laborers would be paid a starting wage of $14 per hour, while managers could earn about $100,000 a year. The company reported the annual payroll — including benefits — would be $1.25 million annually.

Todd Williams, who is also a Pipestone System representative and partial owner of Pipestone Veterinary Services, said the construction company would probably be based out of Iowa. But the approximately six-month process would add to the hotel and food industry, as workers flood the area. Materials like concrete would be sourced from the local area.

The DNR is accepting public comments until March 17 on the Pipestone real estate company's, PVC Management II LLC, CAFO application submitted Jan. 31. As of Feb. 14, the department received only one public comment.

The DNR has 90 days from receiving the application to issue or deny a permit, which had set the deadline at March 2; but an area resident requested a 15-day public comment extension, which was granted.

Public comments can be sent to publicnoticenpdes@dnr.mo.gov. Environmental concerns can also be addressed in a form at dnr.mo.gov/concern.htm. The Macon DNR office has jurisdiction over Cooper County.

Hog manure would be stored in 10-foot-deep pits below the containment facilities until it is injected into cropland near the facility using lifetime easements. As an export-only operation — meaning all of the manure will be spread on fields owned by area farmers and not their own property — Pipestone would not have any legal liability if area waters are polluted by runoff from the fields. Todd Williams, a Pipestone representative and partial owner of Pipestone Veterinarian Services, said Pipestone would accept the moral obligation to help clean any spills or other contaminates.

Todd Williams said Tipton East is not a replacement project for the proposed Pipestone CAFO outside Blackwater — where Pipestone considered installing a similar CAFO facility — because Tipton East is owned by different Pipestone System farmers than the proposed Blackwater project.

Todd Williams said an independent well contractor inspected the proposed site and reported the water table there was of adequate quality and quantity for the proposed operation. The company did not research the risk of manure runoff in the nearby fields in which it will spread fertilizer, but said it is confident in their plan.

DNR Chief of the Industrial Permits Unit Jake Faulkner said the department is legally obligated to approve any CAFO application that meets all of DNR's requirements.

DNR has not evaluated the proposed site and inspects CAFO operations on a five-year rotation. Tipton East would be to the list of future inspections, if the permit is approved, but could not say exactly when the first inspection would occur. If public comment is received with environmental or health concerns, DNR would send an inspection team to the site to address the particular concern.

State Rep. Sara Walsh (R-50th) attended a ride-along with Cooper County Comissioners and industry representatives to Pipestone's Slater CAFO and the proposed Tipton East site.

Walsh said she found the day-to-day CAFO operation interesting and thinks Tipton East would be a beneficial asset to the rural community.

"I have visited with constituents from my district, some are strongly opposed to a large hog farm, others are strongly supportive and believe it will be a great asset to our rural community," Walsh said.

Manure spreading

Manure will be pumped from the holding pits using a hose that could extend about three miles. It will be injected approximately 6 inches into field soil, which will decrease runoff amounts as compared to spreading manure on the surface of the soil. According to Pipestone's application to DNR, the manure will be applied to fields at a rate based on yearly manure samples from the pits and the nutrient uptake of the crops.

Those opposing Tipton East are worried the manure spreaders will spill manure directly onto the surface of the soil as the tractors make turns at the end of field rows, near the edge of the fields. Newer spreaders are capable of injecting manure as they turn.

But Williams said they do not have affiliations with any area spreaders with that technology, as they have not finalized an agreement with any spreader yet. If manure is applied to the surface at the edge of fields, Williams said the spreader would make an extra trip around the boundaries of the field to knife that manure into the soil.

Farming landowners can spread manure as near as 50 feet from the property line, 300 feet from a well, which is under DNR regulations. Manure can be applied within 35 feet from streams if there is vegetation or a hill in between, and 100 feet away if the hill slopes toward the water.

But DNR regulations do not apply to Tipton East, since it has applied to export the manure, allowing a professional spreading company to apply it to fields Pipestone System does not own. According to Melanie Hutton, Cooper County Public Health Center administrator, Pipestone System told her the field owners can request the company to instruct the spreading company to follow DNR regulations when applying manure.

Faulkner said discharges of manure to Missouri waters from manure application are not allowed, but when manure is applied to land in accordance with the operation's nutrient management plan and the Nutrient Management Technical Standard, the field runoff caused by rain is considered an agricultural stormwater discharge, which is exempt from pollution regulation.

University of Missouri Extension Assistant Professor Teng Teeh Lim said if the Tipton East operation has enough land to apply the manure and the spreaders follow good application practices, "the water pollution impact could be well-managed."

Hog carcasses will be composted and also used for fertilizer. They would be covered with wood chips and other materials in an above-ground, open-air structure with a capacity of 186 tons per year.

Some Tipton East opponents worry about rotting carcasses, where wild animals could dig up carcasses and risk spreading diseases to other farmers' hogs. Williams said it's a possibility, but the responsibility lands on area farmers to maintain their own biosecurity measures to keep contamination from any source out of their operations.

Odor output

Missouri has 19 counties with health ordinances regulating emissions around farms, as well as the required distance between farms and residences. The Missouri Farm Bureau is against establishing new county health ordinances, because it believes the state regulations are sufficient.

Lim conducted what he referred to as a brief evaluation of Tipton East's potential odor footprint using Purdue University's Livestock Odor Setback Model and the University of Minnesota Extension's Odor from Feedlots Setback Estimation Tool (OFFSET).

Lim said for deep-pit CAFOs — such as the proposedTipton East — the operation should have enough distance for the odors to be dispersed and diluted, and enough crop fields nearby to land apply the manure at an agronomic rate. The fields need deep enough soil that is not too steep, and the applicators should follow the good practices of land application as recommended by the USDA 4Rs Right for Nutrient Management.

"The preliminary modeling suggests that there is reasonable fields for the odor dispersion," Lim said. "The site is reasonable, not perfect."

The potential odor footprint results vary from 0.4-0.7-miles for agricultural areas, according to Lim's research. Five rural residents live within 0.56 miles from the proposed facility, the nearest being 0.46 miles, according to Pipestone's application to DNR. A sixth resident lives at 0.71-mile away. The facility is also approximately 419 feet away from the nearest waterway.

Wind direction can heavily vary in Missouri, but Lim said average wind rose data — which diagrams the relative frequency of a location's wind directions — indicated the region generally receives winds from the south, which would blow the odor toward the neighbors to the north. Lim warned that many factors impact odor dispersion and dillution like weather and animal biology, so an exact measurement is difficult to obtain. When manure is being spread, the odor would extend further than usual.

"The models consider farm size, type of animals and manure management, topography, local weather, local land use etc.," Lim said. "There are some differences between the models and the assumptions can affect the outputs for sure. Also, the models were designed more for their own states, so there might be some assumptions in the models that were not of good match for a state like Missouri."

Pipestone System

Pipestone System, the company that would manage the proposed Tipton East swine concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO), describes itself as a quasi-cooperative made up of 450 family farmers, allowing their affiliates to efficiently compete in the global marketplace using top of the line technology and farrowing methods.

Its opponents throughout the Midwest view it as a factory farming conglomerate bent on earning profits over local interests, such as environmental and health concerns.

Todd Williams said Pipestone System is the third-largest producer in the United States, which includes more than 70 sow farms owned by 450 individual independent farmers. The majority of those operations are in Iowa and Minnesota, where there is a high volume of corn and other swine operations. Six Pipestone System farms are in Missouri, such as the Pipestone CAFO outside Slater.

When a farming operation, such as a family farm, wants to join Pipestone System, they register LLCs for their livestock and property business. Fifty-two of those companies are registered at Pipestone's 1300 S. Hwy 75 address in Pipestone, Minnesota, such as Skyline Pork, Blue Stem Family Farms, Twin Rock Family Farms and Planet Pigs.

Growing market

Pipestone System wants to spread its operations from Minnesota and Iowa where CAFO companies like themselves have a large presense. By moving south into Missouri, the company can keep their farrowing operations a safe distance from swine diseases found in the heavily hog congested areas.

Missouri Pork Association Executive Director Don Nikodim said Pipestone, with around 70 facilities like the proposed Tipton East in various states, is highly respected in the pork industry.

"They have a huge vested interest in making sure they are successful and their track record in Missouri and other states is outstanding," Nikodim said.

According to Nikodim, Missouri ranks seventh in pork production, but has ranked as high as third in the 1970s. Missouri's peak inventory of hogs occurred back in the 1940s. Domestic and international demand for pork is growing. Last year, more than 25 percent of the pork produced in the U.S. was exported. Nikodim said Missouri row crop farmers could take advantage of the rising need for corn and soybeans to feed hogs.

"New, major packing plants in Michigan and Iowa came on line last year and another one in Iowa will open this summer," Nikodim said. "This creates great opportunities for pork production which translates into the need for more pigs as well as the need for corn and soybeans. Missouri is well positioned to take advantage of these opportunities."

The resistance

Dozens of rural residents, who live near the proposed Tipton East location, have come together to oppose the CAFO installation. The neighbors have been supported by the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, advocates for local control of agriculture and environmental protection groups. Members of these groups have also lobbied against Missouri legislation, HB1973 and SB823, which would further limit DNR's ability to regulate CAFO waste application and manure runoff under the Clean Water Law.

Among their concerns are

the water quality of area ponds and rivers where livestock drink

well water quality in a place where rural residents without a public water source depend on the water table to survive

health concerns for themselves and their children

air quality and declining residential property values

The federally endangered Topeka Shiner also has one of its few habitats in Moniteau Creek, which is linked to Smiley Creek, which extends near the Tipton East location.

The opposition members don't have much confidence in a manure spreading company's ability to safely apply manure after as much as 10,000 gallons of hog feces were spilled October 2014 in Callaway County. The manure flowed through tributaries to Millers Creek and into Mark Twain National Forest. The accident was not reported until a neighbor noticed the spill flowing past their property, and opposition members fear the same could happen to them.

If Tipton East is installed, some area opposition members are asking that manure not be spread within 1,000 feet of their homes and 300 feet from water sources.

Fred Williams just built his dream home about a mile over (away from?) a hill north of the proposed Tipton East site. He was going to dig a pool for his family to enjoy, but said the project would be pointless if Tipton East were installed, because the smell would probably drive them inside on foggy or windy days. His cattle, which graze near his home, access water from a small pond that he fears will be tainted by manure runoff from the fields. On top of all that, the man trying to sell the land for Tipton East is his uncle, Dean Gibson.

Fred Williams grew up in the area and said he is going to report to DNR a buried well on the site of the proposed facility, as well as two springs he believes to be very near the location. He hopes DNR will inspect the site and find that pitted manure could reach the water table, if it leaks into the old homestead well, which would negatively impact well water quality.

"Who is going to come dig me a new well if my water is tainted?" he asked. "All of the responsibility is going to be on us who live in Cooper County. (Pipestone System) wants to come here because it is clean I want to keep (Cooper County) clean."

Fred Williams and other opposition members frequently cite the research of retired MU Professor Emeritus of Agriculture and Applied Economics John Ikerd, who stated, "Private property rights have never included the right to benefit at your neighbors expense. The 'right to farm' has never included the right to operate an 'animal feeding factory."

The opposition group often points to the experience of residents in Iowa, where there is a high presence of about 10,000 CAFOs and 97 percent of requested permits are approved, according to the Des Moines Register. In 2015, the city of Des Moines sued drainage districts in three neighboring counties for high nitrate levels caused by animal waste runoff — a major health risk for infants — in the Raccoon and Des Moines rivers. The charges were dismissed by a federal judge who deemed water quality problems to be the responsibility of the state legislature.

Manure runoff has also been blamed for "dead zones" in the Gulf of Mexico, Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay, where algal blooms propogated by nutrient surpluses caused by manure runoff deprive the waters of oxygen many species need to survive.

Susan Williams, mother of Fred Williams and sister of Dean Gibson, also blames Pipestone System representative Steve Menke of lying to area residents. Williams said Menke offerred to relocate Tipton East a half-mile further from her property, if she would approve of the project. Susan Williams said she denied Menke's request, but a short time after, her neighbor Glenn Baquet called her saying Menke had told Baquet that she had approved of the relocated location.

Pipestone representatives did not respond to an emailed request for comment on the alleged relocation effort.

"I was very angry," Susan said. "I just called (Menke) back and said, 'You are a liar. Do not call my neighbor and say I'm on board with this.'"

On the web: dnr.mo.gov/concern.htm