Proposed Hog Farm For Ayr Draws Local Criticism
Preliminary plans are under way for a 224-acre Ayr Township farm to become the latest concentrated animal farming operation (CAFO) in the county. Country View Family Farms, based in Middletown, Pa., has submitted a nutrient management plan to the local Conservation District as well as to the state commission and the Department of Agriculture. Although the initial comment period ended this week, the operation is not without local criticism and comment.
The plan is to locate a “birthing unit” for hogs at a farm located at 15197 Great Cove Road, south of McConnellsburg. According to Country View officials Aaron Ott and William Fink, the CAFO will be used as a birthing unit for approximately 5,000 sows. “Once the pigs are approximately three weeks old, they will then be removed to another facility,” Ott said.
According to both Ott and Fink, the plan for the CAFO is in the preliminary stages, and the first step is to have the nutrient management plan approved both by the state and at the local level.
The farm at the Great Cove address is currently owned by the Jewish Federation, according to tax records. However, Ott said, it is currently under a sales contract to Country View. The business will be known as the Bivouac Sow Farm, according to the Pa. Bulletin public notice regarding the nutrient management plan submission.
On February 17, 2014, David G. Lippert, president of the Fulton County Sportsmen’s League, submitted a two-page letter to Karl Brown, executive secretary of the PA State Conservation Commission sharing his concerns as well as the concerns of the 275-member league regarding the proximity of the Big Cove Creek watershed to the proposed operation. Big Cove Creek, a popular coldwater fishery, according to Lippert, has already had portions deemed as impaired from nutrients, siltation and agriculture and that a large investment of public dollars has already been used to reduce those nutrients and sediment inputs. Citing the plan’s proposed annual manure production of up to 10 million gallons per year, Lippert said, “a mechanical or structural failure on site would pose a large threat to water quality.”
According to Eric Cromer, agricultural specialist with the local Conservation District office, the plan was submitted to the local office in January for an administrative review. He said an administrative review is only for the purpose of making sure that all information is included and signed. Cromer said the initial review is not for comments, pro or con. He then submitted it to the state Department of Agriculture’s Nutrient Management program for a similar review. Notice of the plan was published in the Pa. Bulletin on January 25 and a 30-day comment period ended on February 25.
The proposed farm’s nutrient management plan calls for the manure to be land applied, and Lippert also expressed concern that it could be unexpectedly washed into the local waterways. He also questioned the large water demands and how that could impact the drinking water supply of neighbors in the vicinity.
According to Ott and Fink, the manure would be land applied locally; however, Lippert also alleged that would put a lot of “tanker trucks full of manure on both Route 522 and 928, both of which are adjacent to and cross the main stem of Big Cove Creek.”
Both Ott and Fink said that Country View Farms, owned by the Clemens Food Group, strives to be safe, clean and neighborly. The company raises pork for Hatfield and has more than 100 family farms raising hogs for their company. Huston Hollow Hog farm on South Madden Road in Hustontown is also a Country View Farm and, according to Ott, a farm on Back Run Road is currently being explored by the company as a concentrated animal operation (CAO). A CAO is smaller and has fewer animals than a CAFO and in this case, Ott would personally be the operator of this farm.
Ott cited the fact that the new farm would employ 18-20 people in full-time jobs with benefits and would also contribute to the county’s tax base. In response to the concerns about discharge into the creek, he said that the NPDES permitting process requires “zero discharge” for the farms, a higher standard than any other farming operation.
Ott also commented that “odor” is an issue that is barely ever questioned. He said that on most days, it will not be noticeable. However, he said that there will be a few days when it may be detected and that has a lot to do with the weather.
Both Ott and Fink said they would be willing to personally answer any questions or concerns that people may have about the CAFO.
Local district technician Cromer said that after the state commissioner reviews the nutrient management plan, it will then come back to the local district office for final approval. The office will have 180 days to approve or disapprove the plan. Cromer said that thus far he has received about four or five letters commenting on the plan.
Although the nutrient management plan is only the first step in the process, once that plan has been approved, there will further opportunities for comment. Any buildings that will be built on the property will require the approval of the Ayr Township supervisors; Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and earth-moving approvals will be required. The project would also be submitted to the local Planning Commission for review.
In the meantime, Lippert said he has forwarded a petition with 120 names of those residing in the area or fishing Cove Creek to the state commission saying “we believe it would be in the best interest of residents, neighbors and sportsmen to curtail and disapprove any efforts to grant permission for this hog farm to operate in this location.” He also asked that the comment period be extended for 30 days to give time for more public comment.