Mustang Pass, LLC, a company managed by Pipestone Systems from Pipestone, Minnesota has applied for a Class ‘A’ conditional use permit with the Moody County Courthouse but not everything is kosher according to several Moody County residents.
The conditional use permit would be for an 11 million dollar swine confinement operation, which its purpose would be to produce high quality weaned piglets to be owned and raised by independent farmers. They presented their case to the Moody County Commissioners last Tuesday in front of a courtroom filled with mostly area residents opposed to the application.
“I think the interest of the County Commission should not be for the top tier interest groups, but for what the community wants,” Shawn Jaacks, a resident of Moody County whose family surrounds the proposed site of the swine confinement.
“I have talked to about 20 families around that area within three miles of the facility who are overwhelmingly against this application,” Jaacks went on to say.
The site, which sits on the northwest quarter of section six, T108N, R48W of Moody County, would house a maximum of 6,616 swine of 55 lbs and above as well as 1,200 swine of less than 55 lbs.
Mustang Pass, LLC has met, and what seems like exceeded all minimum requirements set forth in the Moody County Comprehensive Zoning Regulations, Article XIII for concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) regulations.
Most opponents of the proposed operation agree that Mustang Pass, LLC has met the minimum requirements but believe the minimum is not enough when it comes to the odor from swine waste.
According the Moody County ordinance, you cannot place a CAFO within a minimum of one half mile from an existing residence or building, unless it is your own. According to the model Mustang Pass, LLC provided, their buffer zone meets those requirements, but the commission is encouraged to look at each case individually and with over 6,000 head of swine, a half-mile may not be enough, especially for some residents around the area.
“I live within in the area and I’m going to tell you, I am allergic to hog manure,” Patty Clark told the commissioners. “My husband and I used to have sows but we had to sell out and plant grass in all of our fields.”
The company is aware that odor is an issue, but they have several ways of combating it that they believe solves the issue. They have two pits to hold the waste, a shallow pit in the farrowing barn, which will be drained every two weeks into a deep pit located in the gestations barn. According to Mustang Pass, LLC, they have enough space in the facility to store a minimum of 365 days of production – the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources requires just 270 days. Also, according to the company, all animals are held in confinement barns, therefore outside lot runoff is not a concern for odor production. All waste from the facility will be removed via onsite composting, which is regulated by the South Dakota Animal Industry Board under the direction of the State Veterinarian.
“We have over 40 operations that are of similar in size if not just a bit smaller and we have yet to have a single registered complaint to my knowledge,” one member of Mustang Pass, LLC told the commissioners.
That isn’t enough for the some community members, and rightfully so, there is no reason they should have to endure the odor of over 6,000 pigs if it were not there when they moved into their residence.
“My grandparents moved here in the 1870s, I have nine sets of grandparents buried in Moody County. My story is not unlike the rest of the people here, we hope to raise children and grandchildren in a rural community and not have to worry about air pollution and air quality, or depleting aquifers,” Jaacks stated. “I know some people that still drink the water out of wells just a half mile north of this facility.”
Water contamination is another hot button issue with this program. The operation will use 15,000 to 20,000 gallons of water per day, water they plan to receive from Brookings-Deuel Water Systems.
But one of the biggest arguments that residents around the proposed site brought up is that Mustang Pass, LLC is not part of the community, and it is bringing little financial benefit to the area.
But according to the research done by the company, they are bringing a lot more than just pigs to Moody County.
The confinement will offer 14 full-time jobs with benefits to individual farmers with an annual payroll of $750,000 as well four part-time employees and several other indirect jobs. They will be purchasing feed from area farmers, which projects to be around 150,000 bushels of corn, 750 tons of soybean meal, 2,500 tons of DDGS and 250 tons of other ingredients at an estimated cost of $1.9 million a year, not to mention the fertilizer created from the manure that they plan to sell. They will also be paying approximately $140,000 in electrical bills, $40,000 in propane costs per year and about $50,000 in real estate tax per year to go along with the $450,000 they will pay in state sales and excise tax to build the project. The site will produce enough pork to feed 425,000 United States citizens for one year at 62.8 lbs consumed per person per year according to Mustang Pass, LLC’s research.
It is easy to sit back and say that this is a great investment in the county and provides jobs and numerous pounds of food, but putting yourself in the shoes of neighboring residents, would you want to deal with the potential of extreme odor and water contamination?
The Moody County Commissioners will have their hands full in deciding whether or not to allow such a business to plant their roots in the county, but whatever choice is made, will certainly be for the benefit of the community and community members, because after all, that is why they were elected.