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Guest Column: No factory farm for McDonough County
By Barbara Ashwood-Gegas
Rural Residents for Responsible Agriculture President
Southeastern McDonough County residents can breathe freely this week: Shamrock Acres, a proposed factory farm housing more than 18,000 hogs, will not be constructed in west central Illinois anytime soon.
June 10, the facility’s application expired without approval by the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA).
According to Warren Goetsch, Bureau Chief of Environmental Programs, “Since initial approval for this project was not obtained and construction was not commenced within one year of that basedate … the setback period has expired and the application for the Shamrock Acres, LLC project … has been closed.”
Shamrock Acres encountered widespread opposition in the community, particularly from Rural Residents for Responsible Agriculture (RRRA). RRRA is a nonprofit group of local residents and farmers in McDonough, Schuyler and Fulton counties committed to helping rural communities protect themselves from large-scale Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs).
“Our research convinced us that this CAFO would have threatened our health, property values, businesses, local park, cemetery and ecosystem,” said Ramona Cook, a member of RRRA who successfully sued the IDOA for withholding Shamrock Acres’ construction plans in violation of the Freedom of Information Act.
A daycare, park, hunting outfitters, a writing business, cemetery and more than 20 residences reside within 1 mile of the proposed CAFO site, some as close as 1/2 mile.
“We’re not against agriculture,” Cook explained. “We’re farmers ourselves, some of us for five generations in this township. Yet, we think factory farming is unsustainable because it causes too much long-term damage locally while profiting only a few, most of whom are from out of state.”
CAFOs face increased public scrutiny as research reveals the devastating health, property, environmental and social impacts of these facilities. RRRA continues to educate the public about these impacts and thanks the many concerned citizens and local and state officials who supported this cause. More information about RRRA can be found at www.ruralresidentsforresponsibleagriculture.com and www.facebook.com/RRRAgriculture.
From the June 20-26, 2012, issue