New Confined Livestock Operation Brings Controversy- Notices of Intent to Build/Expand Remain Strong in Illinois

Tracy Crane reported yesterday at the News-Gazette (Champaign, Il.) Online that, “Gabe Shepherd has been around hog barns since he was a kid.

“‘I’ve been covered in manure from head to toe,’ the grain and livestock farmer told more than 80 Fithian-area residents who packed the town’s community center recently, concerned about a large hog confinement operation to be built on Shepherd’s land by Parks Livestock, a Vermilion County-based company with facilities in several states and Canada.

“‘Manure is a wonderful fertilizer,’ said Shepherd, who will be using manure from the Parks facility to fertilize his crop land each fall. ‘That is what is in it for us, because manure is such a good fertilizer.'”

The article noted that, “Others in the Fithian area don’t feel the same as Shepherd.

“Rita Trankina, a lifelong Fithian resident, grew up on a farm west of the small town. Her dad tenant-farmed about 800 acres and had some cattle and a dairy cow for their family, she said.

“‘But it’s my opinion that this is a far thing from farming,’ said Trankina, who wasn’t familiar with large hog-finishing facilities but has recently done research that’s left her concerned about a myriad of issues, including air quality, contamination of nearby creeks and the use of antibiotics in the hogs that could be contributing to antibiotic resistance that affects humans.”

The News-Gazette article added that, “[T]he Vermilion County Board has taken a neutral stance on the issue. But the groundswell of opposition closer to Fithian continues to grow.

“The Fithian Village Board passed a resolution in February against construction of the Parks facilities. Less than two weeks ago, the village board in nearby Muncie did the same.

“Still, those actions have no legal bearing on the Illinois Department of Agriculture, which has until March 30 to either issue the permits or ask for more information from Parks.”

More broadly with respect to the state of Illinois, the News-Gazette article explained that, “Since January 2016, the state department of agriculture has received at least 50 notices of intent to build new hog facilities across Illinois, including three in Vermilion County.

There have been another 40-plus notices of expansion, including two in Ford County, near the town of Cropsey. The Effingham area has been a hotbed of expansion, with at least six notices of intent for new operations or expansions.

“Driving this surge: the growing demand for pork, almost entirely in other countries, but particularly in the Asian market, according to [Art Halstead with Parks Livestock].”

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