Tuesday, October 16, 2018

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Large hog operator pulls its Chippewa County plans

People had spoken out against three planned facilities in county

  • Chippewa-Courthouse-JPG

    Chippewa County Courthouse.

    Staff file photo

CHIPPEWA FALLS — A southern Minnesota swine operation has announced it has canceled plans to build three large hog facilities in Chippewa County.

Jay Moore, Old Fashion Pork’s environmental services director, said his company has decided against opening one operation near Jim Falls in the town of Eagle Point and two more south of Cornell in the town of Estella.

“It just wasn’t a good fit,” Moore said Friday. “The setbacks weren’t great — we’d love to be more isolated. We like to have more than 300 feet (from our nearest neighbors). We also decided it was just too far from the sow farm we have in Clark County.”

While Moore said “never say never,” he added the company no longer is looking at sites in Chippewa County.

When the Jackson, Minn.-based company announced plans to build the facilities — which would have had the capacity to raise 2,400 pigs at each location — several people living near the sites spoke out at county committee meetings in opposition to the plan. Moore said that opposition wasn’t a factor.

“We hadn’t gotten that far,” he said. “It was an internal decision.”

The plans called for the Eagle Point farm and one of the sites in Estella to have 300-by-92-foot buildings. They each would have had two manure pits, roughly 10 feet deep and 20 feet wide, and running the full length of the 300-foot buildings. They would be emptied every 279 days. The other farm in Eagle Point would open with a capacity for 1,200 hogs but would have expansion plans in place for another 1,200.

Chippewa County conservationist Dan Masterpole said his office received the cancellation for the permit request for the three facilities. Masterpole has canceled soil investigation studies at each site. Public hearings — which were going to be set for later this month — also have been canceled.

“With regard to moving forward, please know our office is well-positioned to resume the permitting process at any time using the information that has been provided and generated to date,” Masterpole wrote in an email to Moore. “Please know that we respect these decisions and are committed to working with you as your expansion plans become more definite.”

Dean Gullickson, chairman of the county’s Land Conservation and Forest Management Committee, was surprised when Masterpole informed him the company had pulled its permit application.

Gullickson said the issue that came up was something his committee had little control over.

“The vast majority (of the public who spoke at our meeting) were against it,” Gullickson said. “I don’t think it will go away forever; it’s on the radar screen.”

Old Fashion Pork planned to bring newborn pigs to the three farms, raise them until they reached processing weight and then ship them out. No butchering was to be done on-site.

People who attended the committee meeting in October expressed concerns about odor, water quality and the effect on property values.

Eagle Point is a town that uses the county’s zoning rules, so Old Fashion Pork would have needed a conditional use permit from the county before it could have started construction. The town of Estella doesn’t use those zoning rules, so the company would have only needed to meet requirements for a manure basin and pass a soil and site investigation to move forward.

Contact: 715-723-0303, chris.vetter@ecpc.com

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