(Shaun Friedrichsen, Publisher)
During a hearing Tuesday concerning the approval of a 7,300 sow operation north of Fairbury, the Jefferson County Commissioners set a precedent by deciding to wait to approve the operation.
Bruce Livingston, who owns Livingston Enterprises Inc., partnered with Ron Olson to begin laying the groundwork for this facility. Zoning Administrator John McKee explained that the zoning committee hosted a hearing where people voiced their concerns about allowing this operation to develop.
“There was water concerns, air concerns, with the odor, like we’ve had before,” said McKee. “Nothing that was really bad, but it might be different today. I think everybody left there with questions answered. Of course ground water and air quality were the main concerns, and where and how it was going to operate.”
Livingston explained that the operation would be located northwest of Fairbury and would create anywhere from 30 to 35 jobs for the area.
“It’s a 7,300 sow, breed to ween operation, which is like the one we built out east of town here this past year,” said Livingston. “Ron and his brother came to me, and they know the value of the effluent. Anyway, they want some on their land, so we actually came to an agreement, and we kind of worked out a deal on the place to make sure we meet all set backs. We tried to get it in a good location, this is one of the best ones we can find.”
Commissioner Gale Pohlmann asked how the operation will handle manure storage to mitigate the odor. Livingston explained that there will be deep pits constructed underneath the gestation barns and the gilt development unit, and the rest of the pits will be shallow.
“They will be pull plug, and they will go ahead and drain into the deep pits,” said Livingston. “After we got to do some thinking about it, actually, we invested over a million and a half dollars in pumping equipment that will actually pump four miles and will inject the effluent right into the ground.”
Livingston explained that using this method to pump waste helps to reduce the odor commonly associated with the process. He believes that it would be best to rid the tanks of the top water by pumping it out using a pivot during the growing season.
Crunching the numbers, Livingston explained that this facility would help the county by bringing in an additional $60,000 in property taxes. Opening this operation would also raise the number of Livingston “team members” (employees) to roughly 170.
Commissioner Mark Schoenrock asked if there would be any increased impact on the surrounding roads, and Olson and Livingston noted that two of the roads have high crowns, which could be a danger. Richard Krause, who attended the meeting, asked if the bridge on that road east of Olson’s residence has too low of a weight limit, and Olson responded that they would be under the weight limit.
Livingston noted that there would be approximately nine or ten semi loads of feed brought to the facility, four loads of lean pigs shipped from the facility and a load of whole sows, plus the traffic for maintenance and employees each week.
Although the permit is being applied for by Olson, and he still currently owns the land, Schoenrock noted that this would expand Livingston Enterprises. Livingston explained that is because nothing is set in stone yet.
“Everything is in the works,” Livingston said. “It hasn’t been finalized, but when we applied for a special use permit, that will actually be transferred with the land. If if this site don’t get approved, it’s not worth nothing to me, and there’s no need for me to own the land.”
Pohlmann asked Livingston about the nutrient management plan to prevent the soil composition from becoming unbalanced.
“You have to balance what you put on, based upon the soil tests of the ground you’re putting it on, based upon manure analysis, and then you look for the limiting factor,” said Pohlmann. “If phosphate is high, which Ron, I understand you’re using a lot of cattle manure, so your phosphate levels are probably fairly high. If that’s the limiting factor, you may only be able to put on 7,000, or 8,000, or 4,000 gallons, and you may be short on nitrogen for that corn crop, or whatever, so you may have to supplement with anhydrous.”
Pohlmann asked Connor Livingston whether he would be the person responsible for measuring those levels and determining how much to spread. Connor stated that he would monitor those levels, especially during application. Bruce explained that it would be beneficial for all operations to have tests conducted, whether they are livestock operations or farming operations.
“I think all land needs to be watched, because there is a lot of more commercial fertilizer gets put on, way over the limit, and they’re not monitored,” said Bruce.
After some discussion from those in attendance, Landon Schmidt asked if it would be possible for neighbors in the area to receive some of the effluent. Pohlmann encouraged the Olson and his neighbors within a four-mile range to come to an agreement for the purchase of the effluent.
Schmidt asked who would be collecting the soil samples to test the nutrients, and Olson responded that he works with a private agronomist. Gene Thomas asked whether Bruce would be opposed to having an independent entity, like the Natural Resource District, collect soil samples. Livingston responded he would be in favor of having that done if other agricultural operations are tested as well.
Commissioner Michael Dux explained that Livingston, so far, has the support of the commissioners; however that they would not make a decision on the facility until next Tuesday’s meeting. Pohlmann stated that this is a precedent the board of commissioners is trying to set for decisions such as this.
“Part of the reason we’ve discussed this morning about delaying the vote a week is, Gage County has followed this policy for a long time,” said Pohlmann. “At the time of the hearing, they don’t necessarily make all their decisions right now, especially with a hearing like we had today, or like the one we had a few weeks ago, where we have questions from both sides.
“They’ve got time if they want to go out to look at the site, or to go out and do some research,” Pohlmann continued. When we make a vote, we want to know what we’re voting on, that way if we’ve got stipulations, we know what we’re voting on. This is something we’ve decided to set as a precedent.”
Bruce stated that he respects what the commissioners are doing and encourages anyone who has questions about his facilities or who would like to see the operations to contact him. The decision on the special use permit will be made next Tuesday.