Around 200 people attended a public hearing last night in the Dickinson County town of Milford on a proposed hog confinement facility. Many residents say they’re opposed to the facility planned by Dutch Creek Custom Farms of Minnesota because of its location south of the Iowa great lakes. Cheryl Eichman is the leader of the group “Save Dickinson County’s Environment,” which has filed a lawsuit to try and stop the operation. Eichman lives just over a mile from the proposed construction site.She says they’ve held wedding receptions, parties and other events without flies, without odor and without inhaling toxins. She says the hog operation would put that lifestyle in jeopardy. Okoboji city councilmember David Thorson also spoke against the project. He says the industry represents a threat to the family farm and to the local economy, air and water resources, and the quality of life. Thorson says the city also supports the idea of local control, which lets the citizens decide where the hog lots go. John Hillsterbeck is a family physician who lives near the proposed site. He cited a report on air quality near large hog confinements that was conducted by Iowa State University and the University of Iowa. He says the report says if you live within two miles of a hog confinement, you’re at increased risk of experiencing upper respiratory problems. Others say they’re worried the confinements will make their land values go down. Dutch Farms owner Jack Gerhart says there’ve been no problems is home county in Minnesota. He says Martin County Minnesota is the number one pork producer in the state and the county seat is located on a chain of lakes. He says there’s been nothing but increased property values with the increase in hog production, and he says the county assessor has no information on decreased land values. Valerie Welly is a Milford resident who says she originally opposed the operation, but changed her mind after investigating the company’s track record in Minnesota. She says she found no violations by Dutch Creek with Minnesota’s pollution control agency.She says she also consulted with the leading opponent of confinement feeding in Minnesota, and says she has never been successful in stopping a Dutch Creek operation, which she says speaks volumes about the company. The permit has already been granted to Dutch Creek, but the Iowa D-N-R admitted errors in the original application and are allowing a public comment period. If the D-N-R goes ahead with approving the project, the county could appeal the ruling to the Environmental Protection Commission.
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