It's time for the county to address the health risks associated with confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), according to a group of concerned rural citizens.
At Monday's meeting of the Winneshiek County Board of Supervisors, science instructor Birgitta Meade of rural Decorah addressed the Board, asking members to consider three things with regard to a recent permit application filed by Millennium Ag to expand an existing CAFO north of Locust.
Millennium Ag, owned by Brad Herman of Waukon, recently submitted an application for a permit to expand a hog gestation and farrowing operation located on Locust Rd. from an animal unit capacity of 1,111 to 1,666.
"The first thing I'd like to see is for you to ask the owners and investors in this facility to come in and talk, neighbor to neighbor, business owner to supervisor, to address community concerns," said Meade.
Meade's second request was if the owners won't come in for a conversation, to ask DNR Director Chuck Gipp to delay the permit.
"He (Gipp) has the power to do that," said Meade following the meeting.
The third item Meade asked from the Board was to explore and consider exercising its right under home rule of the Iowa Constitution to establish an ordinance concerning corporate harm, "regarding the right of the citizens of the community to decide how our resources will be used and preserved."
Meade cited a recent article in Scientific American about manure management in the United States.
"It talked about how the U.S. is sending more pork to China. I resent that China is getting cheap meat, and we're getting the toxic waste. It's not right," said Meade.
Meade shared concerns with the Board about the effects of sewer gas generated by CAFOs in the northern part of the county, near North Winneshiek School.
"You can smell sewer gas 40 percent of the school days at North Winn," said Meade.
She said some days there is an "ammonia cloud over the school that will make children sick."
Meade next spoke of the county's "environmental refugees."
"This is a real issue for those of us who live in rural areas. People have had to leave their homes they have spent years caring for because they couldn't tolerate the sewer gas ... this isn't fair," she said.
Meade said having worked in a farrowing facility and having tangential relationships with agriculture, "I know just how hard farming is. My heart breaks because farmers are forced into a style of agriculture with razor-thin margins. When you're only getting $7 - $15 per hog, you are forced to do things that are morally wrong to poison your neighbors."
Meade lamented CAFOs are primarily funded by out-of-state investors.
"They're not people who live here or have to breathe this," she said.