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Guest Column: McDonough County Board deadlocked on CAFO
By Barbara Ashwood-Gegas and Linn Kleppe
Rural Residents for Responsible Agriculture
MCDONOUGH COUNTY, Ill. — Rural Residents for Responsible Agriculture’s (RRRA) fight against Shamrock Acres, an 18,220-head hog Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) in southeastern McDonough County, enjoyed another victory this past week.
July 20, the McDonough County Board was deadlocked in deciding whether to issue a recommendation to begin construction on Shamrock Acres. This largely rural and agricultural county refused to recommend construction of the facility to the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA).
Proponents of Shamrock Acres and corporate agriculture lobbyists attempted to portray opposition to the facility as “anti-agriculture.” The facts demonstrated otherwise. Several members of RRRA are respected farmers in the community taking a stand to promote responsible agriculture.
Nine board members voted against the facility, nine for the facility, and two members abstained from voting. One of RRRA’s ardent supporters, Earl Godt, was out of the country at the time of the meeting and was unable to vote. Earl Godt’s vote would have tipped the scale in favor of RRRA and ensured an even larger victory for the group.
The McDonough County Board had until Aug. 23 to issue a recommendation to the IDOA. RRRA requested that the board delay voting on Shamrock Acres so that members had the opportunity to review documents from Shamrock Acres’ application that the IDOA is withholding in violation of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
Ramona Cook, an RRRA member who will live only a mile from the proposed site, has filed a lawsuit against the IDOA for their denial of her FOIA request. July 18, Judge Patricia Walton denied the IDOA’s motion to dismiss Cook’s suit and ordered them to give her the documents within 14 days despite IDOA’s request to have 30 days to produce the information.
Despite this significant legal development and the inability for all board members to be present at the meeting, RRRA’s request to delay the vote was ignored.
The group encountered resistance from the Chairman of the Board, Scott Schwerer, July 5 when he was asked to schedule a later meeting to make a vote regarding the approval of Shamrock Acres. Consequently, board members were forced to make their decisions based on the vague, incomplete, and inaccurate information submitted by Shamrock Acres at the July 12 public hearing.
RRRA is thankful for the board members who stood up to intense pressure and voted against this facility. In the words of one board member, a vote against Shamrock Acres is not a vote against agriculture.
From the Aug. 3-9, 2011, issue