More than a dozen people spoke Monday morning at a public hearing on an application by State Line Hogs to expand its confinement animal feeding operation on 258th Avenue.
The hour-long public hearing was a required step in a process that will include a vote next Monday by the Winneshiek County Board on its recommendation to the Iowa DNR. However, the decision on whether to allow the expansion to the site is the DNR's alone.
Petitioner Bill Yahnke described his hog operation as being housed in "a well-kept, good-looking building." Fellow farmer David Weymiller argued that hogs raised in confinement operations are treated well because when the hogs receive better care, meat production goes up. He also said spreading manure on fields is a better choice than using commercial fertilizers.
Rural Decorah resident Steve McCargar argued that "the scale of what we do matters." He showed a map that showed the results of putting 10 tons of ammonia into the atmosphere every day.
The public hearing also took up the issue of smell, with rural Decorah resident Terri Mazoli saying, "I can't stand to be outside," but farmer David Sacquitne saying the smell is not that strong and State Line Hogs manager Ray Mc Donald saying smells are part of farming.
Supervisors will not vote on the application until next week, but County Board Chair John Logsdon stressed that change in regulation of animal confinements needs to come from the state legislature. Current regulations co-opt local control. Supervisor John Beard says the Iowa Legislature needs to revisit the issue to make necessary changes in the regulations. The current "Master Matrix" used by the DNR to review applications was approved in 2002 and has not been changed since then.