Woman sues Department of Agriculture for release of Shamrock Acres documents

By Jim Hagerty
Online Editor

An Industry, Ill., woman is alleging Freedom of Information Act violations in a lawsuit she filed regarding the proposal of a McDonough County hog farm.

Romona Cook filed for documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in May, requesting information indicating whether the Shamrock Acres hog farm would be sited near residential property.

When she didn’t receive her request, Cook filed a complaint against the Illinois Department of Agriculture July 7.

“This is a highly populated area,” Cook told the McDonough County Voice. “Everyone out here — we think we live the good life. We don’t have fancy houses. We don’t seek profits as much as we seek quality of life. It’s so ironic to us that our beautiful little paradise is going to be threatened by this factory farm.”

Among 33 documents sought by Cook are blueprints and a certified survey, which will verify the distance from the farm to nearby residents, most notably a daycare. Without a survey, she claims, the McDonough County Board is unable to make thorough decisions regarding the project.

“(It is) just one other thing that seems pretty unfair to residents here and pretty in favor of big business,” Cook said.

At a Monday, July 18, hearing, Associate Judge Patricia Walton gave the Department of Agriculture 14 days to produce the Shamrock Acres blueprints. Walton will decide whether the information should be released to the public at a later date.

Cook’s lawyer, David Albee, said the Department of Agriculture has been known to withhold information in past cases.

Albee has already sued the department in Jo Daviess County when it failed to release documents relating to the placement of a more than 20,000-head mega-dairy.

In that case, the department was ordered to turn over plans it had to verify where Traditions Dairy would be sited.

As in the Traditions Dairy case, documents sought by Cook are public records.

Officials from the Department of Agriculture could not be reached for comments as of press time.

Shamrock Acres is a proposed 18,200-pig farm proposed by Professional Swine Management (PSM). The company manages 300 swine farms in the Midwest.

From the July 20-26, 2011 issue

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