Gage County Board hears proposal for hog confinement operation in north part of county
BEATRICE – A partnership between a Gage County farm and Summit Pork LLP is drawing opposition. A plan to build a 6,250 head swine confinement operation was before a Gage County Board public hearing, Wednesday.
Otto Farms wants to partner with Summit, an Iowa-based company….to build the facility on the farm’s property between Adams and Pickrell. Dean Otto says his operation would use the liquid hog manure from the confinement to be injected as fertilizer on farm ground. Otto addressed one of the concerns expressed by opponents…..availability of groundwater.
"The water issue is a big thing to some people. Those hogs use as much water in a year as an irrigation well uses in 47 hours. An 800-gallon a minute irrigation well running for two days, is the same amount of water the hogs would use in a whole year."
Opponents also expressed concern about the effect on water quality, with high nitrate levels in the area. Summit Pork would operate the confinement, getting hogs from a Jefferson County owner. It is seeking a construction operating permit from the state of Nebraska, but said it would not need a discharge permit. The confinement would use a state inspected concrete pit to store liquid manure, which would then be trucked out.
Ivy Bloom resides one mile away from the proposed confinement site. "Northern Gage County is not an appropriate area for a hog confinement. Gage County would benefit more from individuals and families building homes in this area, than a horrible smelling, dangerous and depreciating ho confinement. This hog confinement will have detrimental effects on my health, as I have asthma, as well as on the health of my neighbors."
Earlier, the Gage County Planning Commission recommended approval on a 5-2 vote of the permit sought by the project developers, in an area that is designated for agriculture.
Andy Schulting is with Nutrient Advisors, which is working with project developers on site evaluation and permitting. He says the State of Nebraska requested a geo-technical study of the site because of the possible presence of what’s described as perched water. "There's a third party contractor engaged to do that work. They will come out and do a geotech report. They will drill down until they meet perched water, or static water....groundwater. They will document everything they see along the way. We'll have to submit that to the state. If the state has concerns with how it's designed, we potentially will have to modify the design. I would suggest you just make a condition of this permit, contingent upon state approval."
Schulting said the site scored 100 points on a Nebraska siting evaluation….where 75 points is considered acceptable for a livestock operation. "One of the key things in that high score is that all of the livestock are under a roof....all of the manure is completely contained in a concrete structure....and all of the manure will be injected sub-surface. Those three things are essential and key, in a good scoring operation."
Todd Veerhusen of rural Adams told the Gage County Board the decision to be made is a tough call and he questions some claims about the project. "You guys have a fiduciary responsibility to Gage County that this is what's best for Gage County. I think you need to check these guys' numbers, to make sure when you vote, that you know that it's properly done. We don't want it, nobody wants it by their place...but that's all an opinion. You guys have to make sure that this is what is good for Gage County."
The Summit and Otto Farms project received statements of support during the public hearing from the Gage County Farm Bureau, and from a representative of the Alliance For The Future of Agriculture in Nebraska.