BEATRICE – A rural Adams farmer’s permit for a 6,200 head swine feeder-to-finish operation midway between Adams and Filley brought support and opposition, before the Gage County Planning Commission, Thursday night….in a three-hour public hearing.

Dean Otto’s family farm would use liquid manure from the operation to inject into his fields, for fertilizer. Otto is working with Summit Pork, an Iowa-based company seeking its first such operation in Nebraska. He wants to sell some of his land for the operation in section 11 of Hanover Township, along South 82nd Road.

"Sustainability is a big thing today....which is where we come in with the manure. We feel it is good for the soils. We've manured a lot of acres in the past...we've seen what is does to the soil health and to the yield that it brings for us."

Otto said the discussions began about five years ago….in a county that is designated as livestock friendly. The area where the operation is located has nearby feed yards, chicken and dairy farms, hog buildings and an anhydrous operation.  "It has to be good for the has to be good for Gage County...and it has to be good for Summit Pork. If any one of the does not work, it's probably not a relationship that any three of us want to be involved in."

Summit would construct the building for the operation. Mitch Baum, of Alden, Iowa….is a Business Manage for Summit Pork…which operates over 180 sites in the Midwest. An application has also been sought in Pawnee County.

"Summit is the owner of the facility....Summit will operate that. The Otto family receives the manure and then a pig owner owns the pigs in the facility. In this, we have a number of different pig companies that we partner with and feed pigs for. In this case, it most likely will be the Livingston family, from here in Nebraska."
Such operations are regulated through the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy. The proposed operation would use a deep pit to store liquid manure inside.

Commission member Terry Acton asked the developers whether the industry is getting too concentrated into a few hands. But, the commission’s attorney and zoning administrator said that’s a separate discussion for another day. Opponents of the permit cited odor, concern about effect on groundwater potential effects on property values and roads in the area.

Kenneth Miller resided for fifty years, just east of the proposed site.  "If this hog shed goes in...there will be in years to come, farms wells going dry....and area irrigation wells going dry. Most of the irrigation wells around there, are not very good. They are not enough, to run a pivot."

Todd Veerhusen of rural Adams said the county should do its research on the proposal. He questioned the figures the company is using on the amount of manure produced and cautioned about the amount of truck traffic produced in the area.

"I lived on 82nd Road for 21 years. All of a sudden, now we're going to shift 400 semis down that road to get in and out of this place? All of the phone calls I've made, you guys have spent $7,500 to $10,000 per mile on 82nd Road in 2021 and 2022 to try to make it better. It's up to you guys to tell me now....if I'm going to send 400 semis down that road, do I have to spend three times the money.....five times the money?"

Local pork producer, Scott Spilker, a Gage County Farm Bureau board member, spoke in support of growing agriculture, including the livestock sector….as long as operations meet the regulations.

"I think contract finishing is the future of hog production. I'm an independent hog producer, I wish there were more of me. I run nursery to finish facilities and I have a share in a farrowing unit by Washington, Kansas. But, the fact of the matter is the future is in contract production. And, one of the reason's Iowa is ahead of us, is because we had Initiative 300. They're comfortable with it, over there. We're just now kind of starting into it."

Following Thursday night’s hearing, the Gage County Planning Commission tabled action on the permit, in favor of additional study and to await a Lower Big Blue NRD meeting on the project, March 9th.

Packed room for swine permit hearing