Hundreds show at factory farm hearing to express concerns

By Karen Hudson
Illinois Citizens for Clean Air & Water
and Barbara Ashwood-Gegas
Rural Residents for Responsible Agriculture

Hundreds of people showed up for the hearing in Macomb, Ill. July 12, regarding the proposed construction of Shamrock Acres, a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) that will house 18,220 pigs.

The Department of Agriculture conceded they had grossly underestimated the expected turnout, which left more than 50 people standing during the hearing, and many others were turned away at the door. Because of time constraints, several people were unable to ask questions about Shamrock Acres’ ability to meet the Livestock Management Facilities Act’s siting criteria. While the four-and-a-half-hour hearing provided Shamrock Acres with ample time to explain their points, citizens’ questions, concerns, and testimonials were cut short.

Some members of the community who will be directly affected by the facility were able to speak out against it.

Ramona Cook, who lives near the proposed site, expressed her concerns about her parents’ already deteriorating health and how they would be affected by the facility.

Jon Curtis, a farmer who owned a CSA near an existing factory farm, told his story about how he was forced to move away because of excessive emissions that contained particulate matter, gases, bacteria and toxins.

Mary Wilson, a heart patient, testified that her heart condition will be exacerbated by the odors and gases.

The fact that a day care center, Hillyer Day Care, that cares for children with breathing problems, is within the setback area of the proposed facility disturbed and offended a large portion of the audience.

Public testimony clearly illustrated widespread concern that the factory farm will destroy the community by hurting local businesses, diminishing property values, and by violating fundamental rights to a healthy, safe and clean environment.

These concerns were not put to rest by the Agriculture Department or the applicant. It came to light at the hearing that the facility was sold that day, calling into question whether an entirely new application would have to be submitted and whether the new owner was qualified to operate a larger-scale livestock operation.

With partnership/investor questions still lingering, the new owner, Larry Joe O’Hern, was unable to address questions as to how he would control emissions and odor from the facility or how its waste would be managed. Neither the department nor the new owner could explain why the family-owned “Lazy Acres Park” was not acknowledged as being within the facility’s setback area, a clear violation of the law.

Although questions and concerns remained unaddressed, the Rural Residents for Responsible Agriculture (RRRA) considered the event a great success and are thankful for all the support they received from their local neighbors, the McDonough County Health Department, the League of Women Voters, and many others. Since the end of May, RRRA has grown from a grassroots group of 30 people to an organization with more than 250 members and supporters. They have united members in their community, fostered awareness about the dangers of CAFOs, and given hope to those who oppose Shamrock Acres.

The Illinois Citizens for Clean Air and Water (ICCAW) is a statewide coalition of family farmers and community groups advocating for sound policies and practices that protect the environment, human health, and rural quality of life from the impacts of large-scale, industrialized livestock production facilities in Illinois. A majority of its members are family farmers and rural residents that live near large-scale livestock facilities that have been adversely impacted by the problems they create. For more information, visit

From the July 20-26, 2011 issue

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