Hog confinement family speaks out

Marlys Barker, Editor

The family behind the three proposed hog confinements north of Nevada said it plans to demonstrate to the public that “livestock production done correctly can have minimal impact on neighbors.”

Scott Henry, who has been traveling, communicated to the newspaper via email to answer questions about why he and his two brothers, Kyle Henry and Eric Henry, are seeking to put up three hog confinements in Richland Township. Each confinement is proposed to hold 5,000 hogs.

The primary reason for adding the livestock, said Scott, is to provide enough income opportunity for all three brothers to return to work on the family farm.

“This project allows my brothers and I to grow our operations and be involved in the family farm full-time,” he said, noting that he and his brothers will be the sole owners of LongView Pork, LLC, and owners of the sites.

The Henry family has lived and farmed in the Nevada area for many years. Currently, the family operates a multi-generational grain farm — LongView Farms — north of Nevada.

“Keep in mind, my parents, brother and myself all live within close proximity to these sites; we are very much aligned with our neighbors when it comes to making sure these sites are well managed, so there is little – if any – impact to the quality of life,” Scott said.

Since news of the hog confinement plans was first released, there has been much discussion and many concerns aired by residents in the area about the confinements, especially on social media.

A meeting was held this past Tuesday at the Nevada Library, sponsored by Citizens for Community Improvement, to start organizing and building “the power we need to stop these factory farms and fight for a food and farm system that works for farmers, workers, eaters and our environment.” The announcement about the meeting also shared the following: “The factory farms would hold 15,000 hogs and produce over 3.81 million gallons of toxic, untreated, liquid manure every year.”

In answer to the meeting, Scott said he wanted to first make sure people know that LongView Pork will not be a factory farm. “My brothers and I are the fourth generation involved in a multi-generational family farm. If opponents of agriculture would actually reach out to us, they would find that we fight every day for a food and farm system that works for farmers, provides jobs for rural America, delivers safe and reliable food for the consumer and protects our environment.”

The fact that people are upset about the confinements isn’t a surprise to the Henry family. “We knew that there are many opinions and emotions surrounding livestock production,” Scott said. “We prepared for this by seeking advice from industry experts, focusing on selecting locations with greater separation from neighbors, communicating with our neighbors and communicating with county leaders.”

Scott said the facilities they are proposing will utilize building designs that “mix fresh air and odor together quicker, which minimizes the barns’ odor footprint. We also intend to use management practices that will reduce odor and protect groundwater,” he said.

Bottom line, the Henry brothers say they are committed to doing many things to reduce any risk of impacting the quality of life for those living around these facilities, which will also include the Henry families.

The process of looking to build these confinements began with selecting a consultant, Pinnacle, Scott explained. The consultant helped them make sure they took all environmental and DNR considerations into account. “They helped us identify and select sites that didn’t just meet the setback requirements – they exceeded them.

“We took into consideration that prevailing winds impact siting, so we placed the sites where we have greater separation from neighbors located in the predominant prevailing wind directions,” he said.

“Trees will be planted at each site to help in appearance and odor management. We’ve committed that any manure being applied from these facilities must be incorporated within 24 hours of application, so we’re not allowed to just broadcast it on top of the ground and leave it there.”

Scott said they are also looking into new technologies on the market. “We are researching and considering implementing (things) such as electrostatic fencing, pit additives, in-barn infrastructure and others that give us confidence we can manage these facilities well.”

As discussed at the Nov. 20 Story County Board of Supervisors meeting, the county’s official receipt of applications for these hog confinements triggered a process where the plans will be looked into by environmental health. The proposed sites will also be reviewed by the state’s Department of Natural Resources who, along with county department heads, will be involved in a matrix scoring review that will establish if all state requirements are met before the facilities can proceed.

Scott said, “There are numerous DNR requirements that we must meet in order to get permit approval that consider many different areas including environmental, community/neighbors and management practices. Because of the care and consideration that we took in making sure that these sites were well placed, we more than exceeded DNR requirements (so far) and have not run into any issues.”

Story County Board of Supervisors Chairman Rick Sanders pointed out at the Nov. 20 supervisors’ meeting that the board has no final say in whether or not the confinements are built. Board of Supervisors is basically just a sounding board for those who want to be heard on the matter.

“We know that we will never be able to convince everyone who has an opinion on this issue,” Scott said. “Instead, we are taking the Golden Rule approach – if a neighboring farmer approached us with a project like this, what would we ask of them? That simple concept has been what has driven our decision-making on how to design, implement and manage this project.”

Scott said caring for livestock isn’t new to his family. “Previous generations of our family farm have raised pigs, cattle and sheep. My brothers and I have also been involved with 4-H and FFA livestock projects while growing up.”

Now, Scott, Kyle and Eric Henry say they are committed to being totally involved in the management and day-to-day operations of their hog confinements. They think there will be opportunities for additional full-time or part-time jobs at the confinements but are unable to commit to specific numbers of jobs at this time.

As the public hearing nears, which will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 11, at the Story County Board of Supervisors meeting, Scott makes a statement that he hopes will help the public understand how passionate his family is about being responsible in their business pursuits.

“What is most important to us is that people realize we have loved and supported our community for four generations and plan to for many more. We will live and work within close proximity to these sites and if we believed that they would be a detriment, we wouldn’t be pursuing this project. Ultimately, know that our family will manage this project as we do any activity we get involved in – with faith, integrity, authenticity and a value system that respects and loves our neighbors.”

Scott said he also would appreciate and welcome the opportunity to talk with those who have concerns. Please reach out to the Henry family by calling 515-382-1891.