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Wednesday, May 30, 2007 02:32 pm

The price of pork

Opponents of hog operation ordered to post bond

Untitled Document Neighbors who oppose the big hog farm under construction near the Buckhart Tavern now have to put their money where their mouths are. Last week, Sangamon County Circuit Judge Leslie Graves granted a preliminary injunction halting farmer Bob Young’s construction of a hog-confinement facility on Buckhart Road, less than a mile from the landmark watering hole, and ordered those opposing the hog farm to pony up a $60,000 bond. The injunction was sought by the Rochester-Buckhart Action Group, a not-for-profit alliance of area homeowners who say that Young’s planned pig farm will harm the environment, create a nuisance, and significantly diminish their property values. Young’s attorney, Tom Immel, argued that disrupting construction would cost Young money and that the plaintiffs should have to put up a $1 million bond to cover his losses. Graves directed Immel and RBAG to negotiate a compromise bond amount, but when the two sides failed to reach an agreement they went back to court last Wednesday, May 23. Graves came up with the $60,000 figure. RBAG has until 11:59 p.m. Friday to secure the bond. If the group doesn’t pay the bond, the injunction will dissolve at midnight, Immel says. George Jamison, who lives about a mile and a half from Young’s farm and is a member of RBAG’s board of directors, said Tuesday that the group is working with a bond-insurance agent to meet the bond. “I think we’re going to be able to address this, but we’re still early in the process,” he says. “I’ve never done one of these before.”
Young has already begun construction of the controversial facility designed to hold 3,750 head of hogs [see Dusty Rhodes, “Raising a stink,” May 17]. He planned to accept delivery of several thousand 10-pound pigs by July 1 and begin the process of raising them to market weight, using feed and medicine supplied by Cargill. The $60,000 bond amount was based on Young’s estimate of additional construction-related charges caused by an anticipated three-month delay, plus $100 per day in interest charges on his $800,000 construction loan and lost income. (Young expects a $425-per-day payment from Cargill for raising the hogs, Immel says.) RBAG activists hosted another “informational meeting” last Thursday evening in Buckhart. Two representatives from Illinois Environmental Protection Agency also attended the meeting and answered questions from area residents. Dave Ginder, an IEPA inspector, told the residents that he covers a 17-county area and has learned that odor complaints are among the most difficult cases to prove. State regulations define air pollution in a way that seems to include odors but specify that livestock produce inherent odors that do not constitute air pollution. The federal EPA agreed to abstain from issuing odor violations for a period of two years to give land-grant public universities a chance to study ways to remediate odors. That agreement expires later this summer. Karen Hudson, a founder of Families Against Rural Messes, or FARM, also spoke at the meeting. She cited numerous scholarly studies, as well as anecdotal examples, reporting harm to human beings caused by residence near large-scale agricultural operations.
Contact Dusty Rhodes at drhodes@illinoistimes.com.
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