Guest Column: McDonough County CAFO’s ‘strong positive’ fails

By Barbara Ashwood-Gegas
Farmer’s Daughter and Member of Rural Residents for Responsible Agriculture

Professional Swine Management LLC (PSM) operates large Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). This corporation recently proposed the construction of a CAFO in southeastern McDonough County that will house approximately 18,220 hogs. McDonough County is more west than south of Peoria, with the county seat being Macomb, home of Western Illinois University.

In a WGEM radio interview, Bill Hollis, a local veterinarian and representative for PSM, implored his audience to better understand the “strong positive” effects of these facilities ( Management/audio/880508/29404.html).

This “strong positive” appears to be the opportunity for a few investors—mostly out-of-state—to profit from an industrialized animal factory. However, Hollis failed to adequately address the devastating economic and health effects of CAFOs for the public noted in the following points:

1. Mr. Hollis asserted that PSM facilities are a “well managed, safe, clean environment.” Why then has PSM, along with the other operators of its facilities, been sued by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan in Adams, Fulton, McDonough, Schuyler, and Hancock counties for pollution?

2. Hollis said it’s “important that the hog farms manage odor, manage things like pigs that die at the facility.” In fact, one of PSM’s facilities in McDonough Co. was sued by Attorney General Lisa Madigan for openly burning hog carcasses. Is that good management?

3. According to Hollis, technology now alleviates the odor of manure. One only needs to drive past one of these facilities with their windows down to know otherwise. CAFOs stink. And it’s not only the smell that is troubling. Studies have shown that CAFO emissions result in increased cases of asthma, headaches, nausea, and eye irritation, especially for children.

This is deeply concerning to Rural Residents for Responsible Agriculture in McDonough. A DCFS state licensed daycare facility is close to the proposed site. A few of the children that attend this daycare already have respiratory problems. What will be the cost to their health? What will be the cost to the daycare owner’s small business?

4. These concerns are significant ones, yet when asked about them, Hollis sidestepped the issues and answered, “What we have to realize as well is that we’re in a rural area. We’re in an area that we do have to foster agricultural development and crop land development.”

Agricultural development is not achieved by driving out rural property owners and small businesses. If this CAFO is built, the people living near it will see their property values plummet. In a recent Missouri study, the residential value property loss near a CAFO is estimated at 88.3 percent. The equipment that constructs the CAFO and the semis that will truck the pigs will also damage the township roads. This expense will fall on taxpayers, not PSM.

5. Hollis claimed to “absolutely” know how the manure from this facility will be managed. No one else seems to know. As of now, several local farmers have not signed manure easements for the corporation, and no documented manure management plan is available to the public. We won’t find out what happens to all that waste until sixty days after the facility is operating.

6. Hollis said his industry is “highly regulated.” Illinois has some of the most lax regulations in the country. This facility does not even have to have a water permit once it’s operating, even though it will produce more waste than all the residents in the surrounding two counties. This is hardly “highly regulated.” Small municipalities have to have water permits. Why doesn’t Professional Swine Management?

From the June 15-21, 2011 issue

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