Drive down just about any rural road in Iowa and eventually, you’ll see a hog confinement. Such facilities, sometimes called CAFOs, handle a large amount of hog manure and can emit an unpleasant odor. Not everyone is excited to see them go up in their neighborhood.
“I think it’s just that the people putting them up think they can get it done, and they don’t care about their neighbors,” says Ken Danilson who, with his wife Jan, raises cattle on their century farm north of Woodward in Boone County.
In late June, the Danilsons found that a hog confinement was under construction just down the road. Besides the possibility of air and water pollution, Jan Danilson says the real rub was the extreme short notice, made possible by part of the Iowa administrative code that does not require a public notice of the issue if the number of animals in a confinement is below a certain threshold.
When I researched it,” she recounted, “I said ‘How come we weren’t notified of that?’ Well, since it’s under the threshold of 2,500 head of swine, they didn’t have to notify anyone, didn’t have to put a notice out in the paper, didn’t have to go to the Boone supervisors.”
Jan says apart from a single phone conversation, attempts to contact the confinement’s operator have proved fruitless.
“If they want to put up a hog confinement so badly, put it on your own land,” said Jan. “They don’t live here, they don’t pay taxes in this county. They have nothing to do with this county, except farming.”
Camp ranger Cortney Webber at nearby Boy Scout Camp Mitigwa feels there may need to be some fence-mending with the neighbors. Like the Danilsons, he was caught unawares, and had concerns about keeping Camp Mitigwa’s three wells free of contamination. But after a personal meeting with the operator, Webber says many of his concerns were put to rest.
“The amount of data that has to be submitted to the DNR is really pretty impressive,” said Webber. “Measuring the gallons of manure, having the manure management plan, and spreading the manure on the fields; they take extra caution to stay at least 100 feet away from a waterway to leave that little buffer zone.”
The confinement’s operator did not return a request for comment.