A petition drive forced the Illinois Department of Agriculture to hold a public informational meeting on plans to build a large-scale hog farm east of Macomb. But a person who helped spearhead the drive said he isn't necessarily opposed to the farm.
Larry Moore of New Salem Township said he pushed for the meeting, which drew more than 100 people, because he felt the community deserved to know more about the plan.
“I felt like I owed my community the right to have this meeting. So I helped circulate the petitions to get the information out there about what was going on inside the community,” said Moore, who added he was concerned that Scott Herndon, who’s building the facility with Iowa-based TriOak Foods, won’t be affected by its odor because he lives nine miles away from the site.
“I have nothing except good to say about Scott. I know a lot of the guys that got hog barns. They’re good people. But this is something I think that the county needs to address – is the fact that these things can pop up anywhere.”
The McDonough County Board voted against holding the meeting, which led to the need for the petition drive.
The county board is now required to issue a non-binding recommendation about the project and send it to the Illinois Department of Agriculture by October 27. The department will then have until November 11 to review the application and determine if the project meets the eight siting criteria for a permit.
Those criteria address environmental issues, setback requirements, and traffic concerns.
The hog farm will have 4,960 head larger than 55 lbs. They will be kept in two wean-to-finish barns. Each barn will be 71 feet wide and 281 feet long. The barns will be built on a 1.5 acre site that’s south of U.S. Highway 136 and about four miles east of Macomb. The land is not zoned.
Nick Biggs of TriOak Foods said the company considered several of Herndon’s farms before choosing this particular site.
“The site we chose is actually the best site for distance from the closest neighbor, best wind direction for the closest neighbor, had the least amount of neighbors,” Biggs said during the meeting.
“Then also, it was the best site for Scott to be able to use the manure on his family-owned ground.”
Biggs said truck drivers will need to use just one county road (E 1800) to get to the site from U.S. Highway 136.
Several audience members inquired about odor control and how manure generated by the farm will be applied to surrounding fields.
Chris West, President of Frank & West Environmental Engineers, said the manure will be injected into the farm fields, which should minimize odor. And he said the barns will be enclosed so no rainwater will get into the manure pits to potentially cause overflows.
County Board member Dick Marcott, who supported holding the informational meeting, wondered how the county will benefit from the facility.
Biggs said the project is worth more than $1 million and that the concrete will be purchased locally, local truck drivers will be used during construction, and the pig barns will require “…a whole lot of LP gas. There will be between $15,000 and $20,000 worth of LP purchased from a local supplier every year.”
And Al Muhlenbruck, TriOak’s Marketing and Relations Manager, said the county will reap direct economic gains from the farm.
“Each one of these buildings will generate about $9,000 in property taxes, or for the site, $18,000 (in) property taxes to McDonough County,” Muhlenbruck said.
Macomb resident Heather McMeekan provided the harshest criticism during the meeting.
“These operations do cause the neighbors to take on the all the risks that are carried on with these farms for very little of the profit or benefit,” McMeekan said.
“Safe water can only be given away once. The air that goes over our lands, the soil that covers them, the water that runs underneath is part of our common wealth. And I really do think that risks to it deserve very careful weighing of the risks versus the benefits.”