HATTON - Many different voices sounded Tuesday night during an open forum to discuss a potential hog farm site in Kingdom City that could house up to 7,600 sows and 2,720 swine.
Neighbors of Horstmeier Farms, the potential site's location, organized the meeting at Hatton-McCredie Elementary School after receiving a letter informing them about the hog operation from The Pinnacle Group, a firm representing Eichelberger Farms - an Iowa-based company interested in using the Horstmeier's land.
About 150 people attended the forum. Some were neighbors concerned about odor and water pollution while others expressed their views on monopolized pork production in the United States and the harmful effects of hormone and antibiotic use. Fellow hog farmers also told about their experiences working with the livestock.
Jeff Jones, the spokesperson for a group of about 20 local residents, started the forum by saying its purpose was to give people accurate information so the public could have a full understanding of the situation. He pointed out that a key person was not in the crowd that evening: Dr. Steve Menke, a veterinarian who works with Eichelberger Farms. Jones said Menke told him that he would only speak to people one on one, which Jones said would make individuals "targets for misinformation."
Menke did send Tim Safranski, a swine specialist with the University of Missouri, with answers to the 36 questions compiled by concerned residents. Safranski, reading the notes of Menke, said the following:
•The outside odor would be limited.
•Hormones and/or antibiotics would be used on an individual, as needed basis.
•Upgrading roads and bridges will not be necessary.
•New power lines will not be required and the hog farm will be a revenue source for Callaway Electric Cooperative.
•Pits underneath the confinement to catch waste will not be flushed, but a deep well will be used instead.
•The pits would be pumped twice a year.
•Hog carcasses will be composted and not burned.
•18-24 Nitrogen will be in 1,000 gallons worth of waste to be used as fertilizer and urine will benefit this.
When asked to publish the responses, Safranski said he was not authorized to do so, which angered people in the crowd.
Donald Lehenbauer has worked with Eichelberger Farms and also gave insight on what the hog confinement site could look like.
He said the confinement would include a venhilation system and air would be filtered in and out.
"(Eichelberger Farms) are strict to Department of Natural Resources regulations and then some," Lehenbauer said.
In a previous interview with the Fulton Sun, Darren Horstmeier, said the fertilizer the manure will produce will benefit his farm and other local farmers. Lehenbauer echoed that statement Tuesday.
"Fertilizer pulled out of these houses is invaluable," Lehenbauer said.
Those in opposition of the hog confinement were represented as well.
Terry Spence of Unionville said an 8,000-head hog operation from Premium Standard Farms (PSF) moved in next to his farm in 1995 and it's been a "complete struggle" since, leading to 18 years of litigation that made its way to the federal level.
Spence said PSF has never benefitted his local community and repairs to roads and bridges had to be made due to heavy hauls. He added that the company doesn't purchase grain from local farmers and warned about the possibility of more hog confinements to come in Callaway County.
"If this facility moves in, there's going to be others and others and others," Spence said.
The fear of corporate production was brought up by Rhonda Perry with the Rural Crisis Center who is also a fifth generation farmer.
"The most important thing here is livestock is the key to Missouri," Perry said.
She went on to talk about how pork production in America is dominated by four major companies - Smithfield, Tyson, JBS USA and Cargill (who Horstmeier currently works with). She gave Missouri pork production statistics: 91 percent of Missouri hog farms have vanished in the past 20 years going to bigger companies, and the retail value of pork has increased 113 percent.
Because there's less competition in the marketplace, Perry said corporations don't feel as if they need to be "environmentally sound as they said."
A representative from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources said Eichelberger Farms has not yet sent an application and assured the public the application would be sent out to the public.