Letters to the Editor 3-31-16

10

Against chicken operations

To the Editor:

“Papaw, why can’t I play outside?”

“It’s because of Mr. Beechy’s chickens!” I will have to tell my eight year-old granddaughter.

Which of you wants to tell an 8 year-old girl she can’t play outside because of the feathers, the dust, and the foul stench generated by 20,000 chickens within about 100 feet of the back yard? How would you like 20,000 chickens within 120 feet of your bedroom window or 140 feet from your kitchen, 150 feet from your back deck? Or even a quarter mile upwind of you? There are no “setbacks” from property lines in Mr. Beechy’s request for a zoning variance, his chickens will be on the property lines, and in the wetlands and creeks per his staked markers.

My granddaughter has allergies to feathers and will have chickens about 100 feet from our back yard. An elderly couple next door will have 22,000 chickens within about 140 feet of the back porch the come out onto on nice days. They are both on oxygen, by the way.

Mr. Beechy’s two proposed egg operations will contain 40,000 chickens. One site is one 250 at Truitt Road; the other off Bear Branch near Bowling’s farms and repair shop. These are hardly small scale operations.

One of his commercial chicken operations, along 250 at Truitt Road, will be sited on a ridge within 100 feet of a wetland which drains into a flowing stream that is part of the Laughery creek watershed according to Mr. Beechy himself who pointed out to me the location. Before obtaining the zoning variance he has already began bringing in material to construct it.

Some chicken facts:

The USDA and others estimate a hen will create about 130 pounds of manure per year, (http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/GHGS-02.pdf) so 20,000 hens will produce 2,600,000 pounds of manure per year. That’s 1,300 tons, or 65 tri-axle dump truck loads.

Mr. Beechy’s massive operation is to be “Free Range”, in other words the hens will be allowed out roughly half the time. If they can collect all the manure in the shed, roughly half, or 1,300,000 pounds, that leaves another 1,300,000 on hillsides above the wetlands and streams. The rest will be cleaned out of the roughly 500 foot long building and piled up to dry un-bunkered and uncovered as far as we know from the March Zoning Committee meeting.

The USDA recommends this application rate:

• Poultry litter application rates 0 – 6 tons/acre

• Apply poultry litter to crop fields, pastures, small plots

• 1m 2 plots to small watersheds (3-21 ac)

(http://www.ars.usda.gov/Research/docs.htm?docid=10838)

So given Mr. Beechy has roughly fifty acres and assuming the highest recommendation by the USDA, 6 tons per acre or 12,000 pounds, he will be over fertilizing by nearly ¾ million, over 700,000 pounds, or 350 tons, Seventeen and a half tri-axle dump truck loads of manure. All of this lays on the surface, unevenly spread by the hens to dry and become airborne to drift onto our properties or to run off into wetlands and streams in our community.

As to the commercial animal operation itself, it is a huge drain on the community not only health wise, but economically. The harm far offsets any gains to the community, and especially to those in direct contact in property values alone. Would you buy a house next door to 20,000 chickens?

If the health issues are not enough from this massive operation let’s see what it will do to property values. According to a study done nationally by and independent appraisal firm, those within a tenth of a mile may lose 88% of their properties value.

I quote the study linked below by a nationally recognized, independent appraising firm, an AO is an animal operation by way of definition.

(http://www.sraproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/KilpatrickJardonMemoFinal1_Revised.pdf)

“An AO affects the value of proximate properties in two ways. First, the AO is viewed by market participants as a negative externality21. As an externality, it is not typically considered to be economically “curable” under generally accepted appraisal theory and practice22,23. Hence, the value diminution of a property attributable to proximate location of an AO can be attributed to stigma.

“Second, as Gomez and Zhang (2000) have substantiated24, AOs have a substantial indirect negative impact on surrounding communities, which would include property values in those communities, via shifts in sources of purchases and other inputs in the factors of production.

“The Gomez and Zhang study was reinforced by a more recent study by Kim and Goldsmith (2008), in which they studied property values of 2,155 homes located within 3 miles of an AO in North Carolina. The principle focus of their study was on spatial hedonics (in short, the impact of distance), but within a three-mile area, they found the average impact to be negative 18%. At one mile, the impact was negative 23.5%25.”

“Similarly, Kuethe and Keeney (2012) examine the scale of an AO to determine which factors specifically contribute to property losses26. Intriguingly, they found that the negative impacts of AOs are comparable to those generated by industrial waste, solid waste, and septic waste facilities. They focused on airborne-related problems, and noted two things which are germane to the problem at hand:

1. Odor is a particular source of nuisance

2. Higher valued neighboring properties (e.g. – residences) are more severely impacted than lower valued ones

“The odor and airborne particulate issues have been explored by two studies in Iowa (2002) and two in North Carolina. The first North Carolina study27 reported emotional impacts (tension, depression, anger, reduced vigor, fatigue, and confusion) linked to airborne contamination emanating from an AO The second North Carolina study28 reported increased incidences of headache, runny nose, sore throat, excessive coughing, diarrhea, burning eyes, and “reduced quality of life.” The first Iowa study29 found increases in eye and upper respiratory problems among those living within 2 miles of an AO. The second Iowa study30 summarized the extant empirics, including studies of AO workers, and concluded two things:

1. “There is now an extensive literature documenting acute and chronic respiratory disease and dysfunction among workers, particularly swine and poultry workers, from exposures to complex mixtures of particulates, gases, and vapors.”

2. “It is, therefore, also concluded that CAFO air emissions may constitute a public health hazard.”

Even the owners of AOs understand this problem. Greenfield Advisors was engaged by the owners of a closed AO in eastern Washington (the Shaake Feedlot, Ellensburg, Washington) to advise on adaptive re-use of the facility. The livestock slaughter business had been purchased by a consolidating firm which did not want to buy the real estate itself. The business was consolidated to another facility in distant town, leaving the host town with an abandoned, contaminated site. The business, which had originally been promised as an economic boon to the town, now employed no one. In addition, the real estate which remains after an AO is closed is contaminated and value-less, and thus no longer producing local tax revenues. As a final insult to the local economy, the contaminated AO site was a blight on surrounding development31.

Extensive studies reveal the impacts of AOs on community life and values. The 2002 Iowa State/University of Iowa study cited the Gomez and Zhang (2000) research which documented the negative impact of AOs on the economy of the surrounding community, as revealed by sales tax receipts and reduced local purchases. This finding replicated an earlier Michigan study, which showed, somewhat ironically, that AOs had the effect of crowding out more traditional farmers, and purchases by those farmers decreased in local stores32. Indeed, a similar study out of Minnesota found that smaller farms made nearly 95% of their expenditures locally, while larger operations spent less than 20% locally33.

These problems have been well known and documented by the State of Colorado for some years. In a study performed for the Colorado State University Extension Office this year, poultry operations and swine operations were lumped together as generators of biogas, “containing methane and carbon dioxide.” The study was conducted to examine the feasibility of anaerobic conversion, and noted that there was a fairly high threshold of cost and requirements for this to be feasible. In support of this, the study documented ten recent lawsuits in which claimants were awarded as much as $50 million for agricultural nuisance.

Notably, the two largest awards cited ($50 million and $19 million) were for poultry operations34.

These economic issues lead inexorably to property value declines, as will be more fully discussed in the remainder of this letter.

Researchers at the University of Missouri quantified both the average value impact of an AO as well as the impact by distance with a study of 99 rural, non-family real estate transactions of more than one acre near an AO. Thirty-nine of the properties in the study included a residence. An average residential parcel within 3 miles of an AO experienced a loss of about 6.6%. However, if that parcel was located within one-tenth of a mile of the AO (the minimum unit of measure in their study), then the loss in value was estimated at about 88.3%. Based on an average land value of $1,709 per acre, the approximate aggregate loss in value within 3 miles of an AO was estimated at $2.68 million.”

So, Mr. Beechy’s egg factory could steal over 88% over my property value, and affect the value of other home owners within a three mile radius.

How is that justified?

Again, this is an independent appraiser, citing scientific research, not opinion!

Dr. William J. Weida of Colorado College performed an extensive study of the economic and financial impact of AOs. While his study principally focused on the diminished economic growth rates in communities surrounding AOs, he also noted the substantial decreases in property values in those areas, as evidenced by property tax reductions. (See the first link I provided, page 12)

The county will face reduced tax revenue as property values plummet.

Mr. Beechy did not present plans to dispose of the dead chickens at the March 16th Zoning Committee Hearing. Kentucky Pasture Poultry which is selling Mr. Beechy the equipment says it leaves that up to the farmer. They recommend incineration or composting. Either way it’s going to smell badly, choose your poison.

Nor were there any plans presented to contain the manure cleaned from the chicken building, no containment bunkers or any coverings. No soil samples have been taken, I know I had to have a soil test for my septic tank, yet 20,000 chickens don’t need one? If one looks around Switzerland county at the Amish Calf operations it leads one to believe the manure will just be removed from the building a few feet then stacked up un covered, un bunkered, to pollute the neighborhood streams and air.

I bought my land and built a home in Switzerland County next to a tract that was to become a subdivision, not a commercial Poultry/Egg operation. I would not have bought and built there had I known Mr. Beechy was intent on diminishing my property values. By the way, Mr. Beechy will not be living on the property, maybe because it’s too close to the stink?

“Sell out” you say? “Just move?’ Well who would by my property next to a chicken farm for even pennies on the dollar? And of course I was there first….

We are forced to rely on a Zoning board that seems at times to be more interested in so called “growth” with callous disregard for its current citizen’s health and financial wellbeing. I pray I’m wrong about that and apologize to any member with their citizens best interest at heart.

I strongly urge the citizens of the affected area come to the Zoning Commission meeting on April 20th at 6 p.m. to express your opinion after educating yourself to the facts. And I would ask every candidate asking for your vote in the upcoming election for County Commissioner if they stand with the citizens of our community or a commercial egg laying operation!

In summation, if Mr. Beechy gets his exemption and builds his Commercial Egg Operation we get: Foul air, polluted water, feathers and dust blowing, flies, rodents, our health threatened and our property values stolen.

There isn’t a positive to having this massive operation in our communities.

Tod Lane,

13621 State Road 250

todlane@hotmail.com

Further reading and research:

• http://www.nbcnews.com/id/33010159/ns/us_news-environment/t/feathers-fly-poultry-pollution-trial/#.Vu_70trD8dU

The state argues runoff from the fields has polluted the Illinois River with harmful bacteria that threatens the health of the tens of thousands of people who raft and fish there each year.

• http://www.ars.usda.gov/SP2UserFiles/Place/30980000/graphics/jeqlitterwq.pdf

• http://www.ars.usda.gov/SP2UserFiles/Place/30980500/graphics/RieselECBiolTrans2013.pdf

• http://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/resources/air/mod3p3chick07268.pdf

• http://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/legacy/assets/documents/food_and_agriculture/cafos-uncovered.pdf

22,00 chickens?

To the Editor:

In regards to the “Egg Laying Operation” that some people are wanting to bring to our community. We would like for you to stop for a moment and thing about how you would feel if it were being placed across the road from your house. Unfortunately, we have to realize that some people in the county are wanting to make this happen in Switzerland County!

One of these locations is on Bear Branch Road, which is across the road from our family farm that we have owned since 1969. One of my brothers lives at the farm now, but I also have a house there, as well as my parents, nephew, uncle, and cousins.

There are so many things wrong with this idea! Can you imagine the smell that will come from putting 22,000 chickens on a 55 acre plot? My father has chronic COPD and on days when my brother is farming (cutting hay or spraying crops) my father has to stay indoors with the windows closed. I also have a cousin who has severe asthma. I would not like to be the one who has to tell Zach that he is not allowed outside, all because the odors could trigger a severe asthma attack.

Other issues include: the concern of flies or other pests; the runoff of the water into the Laughery Valley Watershed; the diseases the chickens carry; and the depreciation of our properties. Who would want to live by this type of operation?

I understand everyone has the right to try to make a living on their property, but this way is not benefiting anyone in this community. They do not plan on employing anyone, and as of now, they will have to import most of the food because it cannot be purchased locally.

I would like to ask the public for help on this matter. We have another meeting scheduled on Wednesday, April 20th, at 6 p.m. at the courthouse. The first meeting was held on the 16th of March. In my opinion, it was not helpful due to the county attorney being the one who was representing the families wanting to do this, and the zoning board was unable to really discuss many of the issues involved.

So please come out on April 20th. We would greatly appreciate your support!

Brenda Shaw,

The Bowling Families

from Bear Branch Road