One Man's View

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Confinements confusing

I just had a smoked ham and swiss sandwich on onion rye bread with horseradish mustard. If you don't think that's good, then you don't know what real food is. That is one opinion to which I am going vehemently adhere, through the end of the week, at least.

Another opinion to which I am going to adhere is that there are no easy answers on the hog confinement issue in Buena Vista County, and the rest of Iowa, for that matter.

As my ham and swiss sandwich is settling nicely in my stomach, I'm looking over Facts on Iowa Agriculture for 2005, a brochure published by the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation. According to this brochure, Iowa has ranked number one since 1960 in the nation in hog marketing, averaging close to 24 or 25 percent of the total U.S. production.

That can mean only one thing. If you're going to live in Iowa, you're going to have to put up with hogs. And that means the whole hog. If you enjoy ham and Swiss sandwiches, then you'd also better get ready to handle what's left before the sandwich gets into your mouth.

Manure is a natural byproduct of the pork production process. Whether it's the odor from confinements or manure as it's spread on the field, if manure is present, you are going to smell it. And, since hog confinements are in the country, if you choose to live in the country you're going to smell hogs. It's as simple as that.

In Lawrence County, South Dakota, the zoning laws all but take a bat to the head of anyone who decides to just plop a house down just anywhere out in the country. Rural subdivisions are extremely restrictive. If you try building in an area zoned as agricultural, you had better have a minimum of 40 acres for each housing unit or else you aren't going to be permitted to build a house, at least legally.

In Buena Vista County, the minimum-sized lot for building on bare ground is 25 acres, according to Kim Johnson, county zoning director. Johnson said people can also build on existing farmsteads which could include a grove and outbuildings.

I think anyone who is anticipating moving out into the country needs to be aware of the risks involved. There could be a confinement facility built on any given side of you. That is the chance you take when you decide to move out into the country. If the peace and quiet of country living more than offset that for you, then more power to you.

On the other hand, if the mere possibility of having a confinement within a mile of where you live bothers you, then you should probably remain a city person.

Now comes the tough part of the discussion.

What if you're a pork producer and you want to build or expand a confinement facility. In Buena Vista County, if you plan on having 500 or more animal units or 1,250 hogs, that means you have to follow what is called the county Manure Management Plan which requires a public hearing. Buena Vista County is one of the few in the area that requires a public hearing.

The presumed reason for the public hearing is that neighbors should be notified about plans for a hog confinement. The county actually has very few 'teeth' about enforcing regulations, though.

I don't have any answers. I do think that livestock confinement operators should be sensitive to their neighbors and I think their neighbors should realize where they live and adapt their lifestyles accordingly.

I've been feeling guilty lately about not getting a garden in. Then it started sleeting this afternoon. Instead of feeling guilty, I'm now congratulating myself on my excellent planning for inclement weather. This weekend sounds like a better time for a garden.

Are you a coffee drinker? If so, have you checked coffee prices lately?

A 34.5-ounce to 39-ounce can of coffee can run you over $7 now. A 34.5-ounce to 39-ounce can, by the way, is what used to be a 48-ounce can.

I found one store where the generic brand in the 34.5-ounce size runs $3.19. Figuring coffee prices might run up the way they did a number of years ago, I bought a case of eight cans. I'm thinking that's probably one of the better investments I'll make this year.

"Everyone can stop paying for rain anytime now." The old rain gauge is looking pretty full, all right.

Someone brought 35 beaver tails into the Buena Vista County superisors board room Tuesday for a bounty. The drainage district is paying to have trees removed. Maybe we could let the beavers cut the trees down first before trapping them.