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Dozens submit concerns over proposed sow farm

More than two dozen people sent comments to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources in August and September to oppose a proposed swine farrowing operation in Callaway County.

No one wrote a letter in support.

ABC 17 News obtained the 32 comments sent during Callaway Farrowing, LLC’s “neighbor notice” period. DNR spokeswoman Gena Terlizzi said the 30-day period is for neighbors to the proposed confined animal feeding operation to send back their notifications Callaway Farrowing sent them, along with any comments. Terlizzi said the public sometimes sends in comments during these periods, as well.

At least nineteen of the 32 comments that DNR received came from Callaway County residents. Many of those complained about the manure’s potential harm to the water quality in the area.

Callaway Farrowing, LLC applied to build a sow farm in July. The application, which lists Eichelberger Farms from Wayland, Iowa as the applicant, shows a plan for three barns to house 10,320 pigs in a farrowing operation. Pigs are birthed, weaned to a certain weight, then taken to a “finishing” facility before finally sent to slaughter. The proposed facility would only have the farrowing building, where sows nurse piglets, and a gestation building where female pigs give birth.

Callaway Farrowing wants to build the facilities on twenty acres of land belonging to Darren Horstmeier, a Callaway County farmer. In exchange, Horstmeier and three other landowners keep the manure the pigs produce to use as fertilizer for crops. According to the application, the manure will be pumped from pits underneath the buildings into trucks, then injected into the ground the crops grow from.

The application says 1,459 acres of land will receive the manure. Many letter-writers worried the manure would run off into various creeks nearby, such as the RIchland Creek, Auxvasse Creek and Stinson Creek, which flows towards Fulton.

Philip Glenn, a Callaway County farmer, didn’t receive a neighbor notice and didn’t write a letter, but he’s concerned the manure produced may contaminate a branch of the Auxvasse Creek he lives near. Glenn lives next to Premier Properties, one of the pieces of land in Callaway Farrowing’s agreement to receive manure. Glenn said rainwater often comes down from Premier Properties and cuts through his farmland.

“You can go around anywhere in Callaway County after these spring rains, and you can see deep cuts in the field,” Glenn said. “There’s no doubt in my mind there’s erosion, and it’s at the most inopportune time, in the spring and the fall, and that’s when they plan on applying the waste.”

The soil in the county also concerned Glenn. The application lists 85 percent of the soil workers will apply the manure to as Mexico silt loam, a soil type the U.S. Department of Agriculture calls a “high to very high” potential for runoff.

“Even if they chisel it in, knife it in, whatever, if you get that deep erosion, you’re going to pick up the nutrients from the hog waste and the pathogens, whatever else is in the stuff, and take it all down to the stream,” Glenn said.

Near Auxvasse, though, Kenny Brinker operates his own sow farm. Built in 1994, Brinker said his operation is a “dinosaur” compared to the facility Eichelberger Farms wants to build. Brinker said before sow farms, the pigs’ manure would wash away during a rain into the streams. With confined feeding, the pigs manure is retained in pits. The use as fertilizer also helps farmers cut down on purchasing chemical fertilizer.

Unlike Eichelberger Farms’ proposal, Brinker “flushes” the manure from the pits underneath the pigs into a nearby lagoon. Pivots then pump the manure onto the nearby crops. Brinker said his staff monitors the equipment every hour while its in operation to make sure everything is working properly and nothing is spilling.

“Every industry has a hiccup either by accident or somebody doing things wrong,” Brinker said. “But it seems like in our industry, every time one of those pops up, it sure gets a lot of media attention.”

Glenn said animal waste works as a natural fertilizer, but hopes to know more about how rain may effect the application of manure.

“I definitely don’t have the answers,” Glenn said. “I’m just raising the concerns, and it seems like nobody wants to talk to us. So we just keep crying in the wind.”

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