Proposed Hog Confinements in Dallas County Show Need for Local Control

Usually considered a rural issue, two proposed hog confinements Dallas County are making urban lawmakers pay more attention.

The proposed hog confinements would have a total of 7,440 hogs in rural Dallas County, which is the fastest growing county in the state. These confinements will produce as much waste as a town of 30,000 people and it will go untreated.

Earlier this month, Dallas County Supervisors voted against allowing these proposed hog confinements, but in reality there isn't much the local people can do about the hog confinements that will be owned by the out of state company, Cargill.

Dallas is among 70 counties that have adopted a system of requirements used by state regulators to determine whether construction of an animal confinement is allowed, which means the Board of Supervisors and dozens of residents who live near the proposed buildings provide input but have little say over what happens in their backyards.

The so-called “master matrix,” created in 2003, awards points based on how a confinement will affect the air, water and community. Both proposed Dallas County confinements garnered enough points for approval, which county officials must submit to the state by Monday.

Residents say the grading system creates an illusion of local control. “In reality, the county has very little control over this,” said Jim Thompson, who lives near one of the proposed sites west of Perry.

Applications to build animal confinements are submitted to the county, where officials score the matrix. If an applicant gets the needed points, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources approves the application. If the county issues a failing grade, the state rescores the matrix and can overrule the decision.

In the past some state legislators from more urban districts stayed away from this issue, saying that it was a rural issue. However, these proposed hog confinements demonstrate that hog confinements are moving into more urban areas and can be put up anywhere without little control from local citizens.

Hopefully, this will force urban lawmakers in the Iowa legislature to start pushing for the need for local control.

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