On Monday, August 13, the Jefferson County Supervisors held a Master Matrix scoring session for a large new proposed factory farm. With 7,497 finishing hogs, the Daniels Site is the largest ever proposed for Jefferson County. It will be located approximately 2.5 miles west of the city of Pleasant Plain in Penn Township.
Jefferson County Friends and Neighbors (JFAN) attended the scoring session along with approximately 15-20 other Jefferson County residents.
According to its manure management plan, the CAFO will generate over 2.3 million gallons of manure to be applied on fields in the Lake Darling watershed. Several of the fields are already in two or three other CAFO manure management plans. See a map of the site and fields here.
The CAFO owner is Bill Huber, proprietor of Huber Slats (which produces the concrete slotted floors used in factory farms), and we understand a partner in AgraWay Partners, a grain company based in Wayland. In 2014, Agri-Way Partners expanded into hog production with a plan to build 40 factory farms in southeast Iowa. According to the Daniels Site construction permit application, Huber has an ownership interest in 21 other confinements in Des Moines, Henry, Washington, and Keokuk counties.
The Daniels Site will be Huber/Agri-Way Partner’s first in Jefferson County.
Jefferson County CAFO owners are typically local farmers who have contracts with corporations such as TriOak, Eichelbergers, and JBS. These corporations own the hogs and provide the feed, veterinary care, and detailed instructions on how to raise hogs to the contract growers.
Huber is not a local contract grower. The ownership of the Daniels Site is more akin to a small-scale Smithfield with a history of expansion—and it is deeply concerning.
Public Hearing Debate at Monday’s Supervisor Meeting
Last Monday, August 6, the supervisors scheduled the Master Matrix scoring session but not the public hearing during their weekly meeting. The August 13 agenda also did not include an agenda item for a scheduling public hearing date.
JFAN president and executive director Diane Rosenberg attended the supervisor meeting on August 14, and during the public comments section requested a public hearing be held. Public hearings are not required when a Master Matrix is proposed, but Jefferson County supervisors have historically conducted them. They are typically held in many other Iowa counties as well. JFAN alerts Jefferson County residents when a public hearing is held.
Supervisor Lee Dimmitt questioned the need for a public hearing, stating the Master Matrix scoring process was straightforward and there wasn’t much new that anyone could say on the CAFO issue. JFAN countered that the supervisors previously used the public hearing to listen to constituent comments and then finalize the scoring at that time.
Supervisors Dee Sandquist and Dick Reed initially agreed to hold an additional session on August 14 at 10:45 a.m. to formally discuss whether they would hold a public hearing. While there was a technical issue regarding whether there was time enough to get a public notice into the August 14 issue of the Fairfield Ledger, the DNR’s deadline, Rosenberg encouraged the supervisors to contact the Ledger to work it out.
JFAN Contests 70 Points During Master Matrix Scoring Session
The Daniels Site scored itself at 505 points. Huber attended the session, as did Master Matrix preparer Rachel Rinner, owner of Knee Deep Solutions. Approximately 15-20 people attended the scoring session, including about a dozen JFAN supporters.
JFAN identified four questions for a total of 70 points that we felt should be denied, reducing the Master Matrix to 435 points, a failing score. You can view our comments here.
JFAN provided strong arguments on each of the questions, and the supervisors gave a fair amount of consideration to each of the points Rosenberg raised. Dr. John Ikerd pointed out that the Master Matrix was the one available tool to supervisors and that the highest standards should be accorded its review.
Francis Thicke, co-owner of Radiance Dairy, drew from his experience on the Environmental Protection Commission echoing Dr. Ikerd’s statement and also supported the arguments Rosenberg made.
Local organic farmer Jocelyn Engman, whose farm is located less than two miles northeast of the proposed confinement, gave a moving account of her concerns about being harmed by the odors from this enormous confinement. Huber told Engman that she wouldn’t smell the CAFO except for when manure was applied. Rosenberg then pointed out that Huber was involved in a lawsuit over his Des Moines County CAFOs because of the horrific smell and health problems neighbors are experiencing.
No one spoke in favor of the confinement except for Huber and Rinner.
Rosenberg urged the supervisors to not approve any points they felt questionable, because the DNR would review a failed application and make the final decision, but they wouldn’t review a passed one. Supervisor Dimmitt gave many of JFAN’s points a closer look. Supervisor Sandquist acknowledged the Master Matrix was flawed yet felt there wasn’t precedence for using higher standards Rosenberg and others urged. (See the JFAN comments. In the end, Supervisor Reed made a motion to pass it at the full 505 points, and all three supervisors voted unanimously in favor of granting all points.
The supervisors then announced they were NOT scheduling a public hearing because there wasn’t enough time to do so.
This Is Not Acceptable!
The lack of a public hearing sets a precedent in Jefferson County that should not be repeated. It denies constituents an opportunity to speak out about a proposed CAFO and potentially provide additional information for the supervisors to consider in scoring the Master Matrix. The scoring session was announced via a brief Fairfield Ledger article on August 7 and a tiny public notice on August 9, less than a week before Monday’s meeting took place.
The supervisors spent a sizeable amount of time considering the points JFAN raised but then decided to allow all the points to be granted. This, in our opinion, demonstrates a lack of political will and courage.
We can’t allow Bill Huber and AgraWay Partners to begin expanding in Jefferson County as he has in many other southeast Iowa locations. This incursion represents a different caliber of ownership in Jefferson County and must be addressed with strength.
ACTION STEPS – What YOU Can Do
1. Send a letter to all three supervisors protesting their avoidance of a public hearing. There was plenty of time to schedule the meeting had it been on the August 6 or 13 supervisor meeting agendas. This is a denial of the democratic process of Jefferson County citizens.
2. Write to Bill Huber and let him know his CAFO is not welcome in Jefferson County. He needs to feel the pressure from Jefferson County residents. He was clearly not comfortable JFAN’s comments. Now he needs to hear from YOU.
Be polite but firm and share why you oppose his confinement and why you feel his CAFO will have a negative impact in the county. Suggested talking points are here and here.
Bill Huber’s address as it appears on the DNR application, which is public information: 2483 Robbins Court, Washington, IA 52353.
3. Or give him a call. From the DNR application: 319-653-2809.
4. The supervisors are collecting public comments on the Daniels Site for the Iowa DNR. Send your concerns to Supervisor Lee Dimmitt by Thursday, August 30, and Supervisor Dimmitt will forward them to the Iowa DNR. The DNR can only address concerns that relate to Iowa CAFO regulations.
5. Write Letters to the Editor of the Fairfield Ledger opposing the largest CAFO coming into Jefferson County. Point out that this is taking place without a public hearing and that is not acceptable.
What JFAN Will Do Next
JFAN will review the manure management plan to ensure that there is enough land for the 2.3 million gallons of manure, especially given many of the fields are in several other CAFO manure management plans. If we find there is less than what’s required, we will file a formal complaint to the Iowa DNR and attempt to get the fields removed from the plan. An approved MMP is required for the CAFO to operate.
Let’s work together to make Bill Huber rethink this CAFO or any more like it for Jefferson County.
Thank you for everything you can do to protect Jefferson County from this threat.
Jefferson County Farmers & Neighbors, Inc., PO Box 811, Fairfield, IA 52556, 641-209-6600
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