Proposed hog facility clears initial hurdleJackrabbit Family Farms cleared the first hurdle Tuesday in its bid to put a swine production facility in southwest Davison County by securing approval from the county Planning and Zoning Commission.
By: Ross Dolan, The Daily Republic
Jackrabbit Family Farms cleared the first hurdle Tuesday in its bid to put a hog production facility in southwest Davison County by securing approval from the county Planning and Zoning Commission.
The county panel voted 3-1 to recommend approval of a conditional use permit to allow a 5,400-sow operation in Baker Township, about 10 miles south of Mount Vernon. The vote came after a hearing at the courthouse in Mitchell.
Zoning Commissioners Tom Greenway and Charles Storm, citing a possible perception of conflict of interest, excused themselves from voting and County Commissioner Denny Kiner, who also sits on the board, was out of town on business.
Voting for the permit were Kim Weitala, Bruce Haines and Brenda Bode. Voting against the permit was Gary Stadlman.
The county commissioners, sitting as the Board of Adjustment, will make a final decision on the permit April 17.
The meeting jammed the third floor courtroom at the Davison County Courthouse and included passionate testimony from proponents and opponents.
The majority of testimony against the operation centered on odors and dust that might be generated by the operation.
Lyle Reimnitz, who lives to the north of the proposed facility, said he’s allergic to hog dust.
He said he also is disappointed that the project could derail his daughter’s plan to move to his acreage with her husband.
Asked if he planned to testify April 17, he said, “I don’t know that it would do any good.”
South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture Walt Bones, in a surprise visit, was one of the first to speak on behalf of the project. In his testimony, Bones said modern, large-scale operations such as Jackrabbit Family Farms are needed.
“The challenge is to not only feed the United States, but a growing world population,” he said.
Bones said more livestock is needed for food as well as a way for the state’s youth to become more actively involved in agriculture. Livestock production, he said, is an excellent way to get value-added benefits from the state’s crops.
Bones said he wasn’t invited to the meeting, but he read the published notice of the meeting and decided to attend.
“I’m just here supporting agriculture,” he said.
“There was a lot of great testimony pro and con,” Bones said after the meeting. “It’s not for me to pick a winner and loser here.”
Jackrabbit Family Farms would be owned by investors from South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa, said Pipestone System CEO Luke Minion.
Pipestone would manage the facility for the investors. It also manages Bluestem Family Farms, a similar hog operation in Beulah Township in Davison County.
Rattling off statistics during his testimony, Minion said buildings for the project will cost $10 million and livestock another $3 million.
The operation would have an annual payroll of $700,000 and would annually produce 140,000 pigs worth $5 million, he said. The livestock would consume about $1.7 million in feed, which would be purchased locally.
The operation would pay an estimated $26,000 a year in real estate taxes.
The facility would use about 15,000 to 20,000 gallons daily from wells that would be drilled and from rural water sources. It is not known at this time what percentage of water would come from either source, Minion said.
He said Davison County was selected as a site because it has low livestock density, feed availability, proximity to some investors and because Davison County is viewed as being agriculture- and livestock-friendly.
Todd Van Maanen, vice president of Eisenbraun & Associates, a Yankton-based professional engineering firm, spoke on behalf of the operation.
“This project has met your standards, and it doesn’t require any variances,” he said.
As part of the conditions attached to the proposed conditional use permit, the swine facility must meet all state environmental standards, which will include a manure-management plan.
Surrounding farms would use manure generated by the facility. The manure would be pumped through umbilical lines to the farms.
The commission also seconded Commissioner Brenda Bode’s conditions for a five-row tree belt to mitigate any dust or odors from the facility.
Pipestone would also have to work out a road maintenance plan with the Baker Township board and submit a long-term plan to remove buildings and clean up the site after the facility’s 30-year life. Biofilters would also be installed on buildings to limit odor emissions.
Concern was expressed about potential manure leaks as the nutrients are piped about the countryside. Pipestone officials said there is a greater runoff danger from cattle operations than the Jackrabbit facility.
Zoning Commission Chairman Bruce Haines said the value of the meeting was in getting issues out in the open.
“The more people talk, the less chance they go home so upset,” he said.
The 80 people who crowded the room for the hearing included about 30 students from the swine production program at South Dakota State University.