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Appeal questions DNR permit to hog operator

Hearing raises concerns over if application requirements were met for proposed Callaway County hog farm February 15, 2015 at 6:00 a.m. | Updated February 15, 2015 at 6:00 a.m.

JEFFERSON CITY - A Missouri state commissioner will decide if the Missouri Department of Natural Resources properly issued an operating permit for a proposed 10,000-hog facility in Kingdom City. The topic was debated Monday during a hearing presided over by Commissioner Karen A. Winn, who must return a decision in March.

Friends of Responsible Agriculture (FORAG), an organization led by those living near the proposed site, has fought its coming in since June, holding question-and-answer forums and writing letters to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources stating concerns about health and environmental effects.

The hearing could be Friends' last attempt to stop the hog confinement, which will operate as a sow breeding facility for Callaway Farrowing, LLC - the company that will oversee the facility. Callaway County has no health ordinance that would prevent a confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) from coming to the county. FORAG filed an appeal to DNR's permit issuance in December. Original letters to those living near the facility listed Eichelberger Farms, an Iowa-based agricultural company, as the authority until Callaway Farrowing was formed in June, according to the Secretary of State's online business filing.

Representing Friends were Stephen Jeffrey of St. Louis and Joshua Harden of Jefferson City. Assistant Attorney Generals Timothy Duggan and Laura Elsbury defended DNR alongside Robert Brundage of Newman, Comley & Ruth of Jefferson City and Glen Ehrhardt of Rogers, Ehrhardt, Weber & Howard of Columbia for Callaway Farrowing.

Jeffries said a major concern with the permit issued regards "continuing authority" requirements. The continuing authority, listed as Callaway Farrowing on the permit application, is responsible for operation, maintenance and modernization of the facility. Jeffries said DNR has the burden of proof to ensure the continuing authority has the resources for those three components. After filing a motion for discovery to what assets have been loaned, he said Callaway Farrowing has no assets.

"If it has no assets, how can it be a continuing authority to be given a water permit?" Jeffries told the Fulton Sun.

The permit states the hog farm will hold 9,520 swine more than 55 pounds and 800 swine less than 55 pounds. According to the application, the three buildings - gestation, farrowing and gilt - will produce more than 4 million gallons of a feces-urine mixed waste. FORAG has concerns about the potential spilling of that waste when it is removed from the site to be used as fertilizer on acreage in land near the facility. A map displayed at the hearing showed the farmland where the waste would be applied, based on manure easement agreements provided by Callaway Farrowing, and is not required for the permit application.

To Callaway Farrowing representatives, that information was irrelevant to the focus of Monday's hearing - whether or not DNR properly issued the permit based on its regulations, which only hold the facility operator responsible for waste when it's on the CAFO. The permit issued is a no-discharge one, meaning Callaway Farrowing is forbidden to discharge any waste into waterways.

Passed legislation from the 2013 session took away DNR's requirement for construction permits. Greg Caldwell, envrionmental specialist with DNR, testified that Callaway Farrowing did not submit a plan on how the waste would be moved off of the property, but Brundage said the permitting process does not require Callaway Farrowing to give that information.

"(Callaway Farrowing) is responsible when it's on the property under the permit, but not when it goes off," Brundage said.

Winn has until March 15 to give her decision.

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