Online Staff Report
RARITAN, Ill. — Despite enormous public opposition, the McDonough County Board approved a proposal for an 18,000-head hog factory to be located near the town of Raritan, Ill. Raritan is about 185 miles southwest of Rockford.
A rough calculation of the amount of waste the facility will produce is well more than 6 million gallons a year — more than a city of 50,000 people.
Ten board members voted to approve the facility and seven voted against it. Two members abstained because of personal and financial interests in the project.
Many board members said they voted “no” as a result of the lack of information that was provided to them about the project.
“How could a county board vote on such a thing with almost a total lack of information?” asked Barbara Adams, a neighbor of the facility and a member of Clean Responsible Agriculture No CAFOS (CRANC).
“We patiently sat at a six-hour hearing on the proposal and waited for information, but very little was revealed to us,” Adams added. “There are eight sting criteria that the facility must meet to be approved. It is egregious that important facts about the project relating to those criteria were omitted. We sent numerous Freedom of Information Act requests to the Department of Agriculture, but never received the information we needed to adequately evaluate the facility.”
CRANC’s Scott Thompson said: “The project sponsors asked us to ‘trust them’ and said that they would be ‘good neighbors.’ They even displayed photos of their children at the hearing. Citizens attended the hearing to get facts for our county board and for our community, not to see family photos. With the heavy baggage of routine violations the operator, Professional Swine Management, carries, how we can believe that they will be good neighbors?”
State law disallows local control over factory farm siting decisions. The county board will forward their resolution recommending approval of the project to the Department of Agriculture. However, their recommendation is advisory and nonbinding.
The Department of Agriculture routinely approves factory farm proposals regardless of how county boards vote. Recently, the department approved a factory farm proposal in Livingston County despite a negative recommendation by the county board. This lack of democratic local control is a sore issue for all counties in the state of Illinois that wish to preserve their quality of life, family farms and clean rural environments.