A new factory farm is trying to add a location in Cooper County, and residents are not happy about the prospect.
Pipestone System, a Minnesota-based pork production company, sent a letter to landowners in the area informing them of their plans. In the letter, which was sent Jan. 8, 2018, Pipestone announced plans to open a new facility that would house 5,784 sows, 640 nursery pigs, and 1,280 swine in a 25-acre patch of land.
Cooper County residents are raising concerns about the potential economic and environmental impacts of this potential farm. The farm would be owned by a company located outside of Missouri, and Pipestone hasn’t made plans to use local sources for building materials. Grain used for farms is not taxed in Missouri, preventing any revenue from the animal’s feed.
Environmentally, this farm could produce up to 4 million gallons of waste each year. Floors of these farms are slatted. Waste collects underground in a pit, and is emptied once a year. This can spread to the ground water of the area, and runoff can contaminate other local land. In addition, allowing this waste to remain can pollute the air. Dangerous gases such as methane, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide are produced from the waste storage structures. This farm would require about 25,000 gallons of water each day. Finally, such a high concentration of animals can lead to diseases. MRSA, or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, can result from antibiotics used in animal feed. A study published in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology found that the risk of developing MRSA was nearly three times higher for those who lived within a mile of a farm housing more than 2,500 pigs.
“We just need to keep these companies responsible,” said Fred Williams, a landowner in Cooper County. “They can’t just destroy our air and water and then leave with no tie to the community.”
Williams helped to organize a community meeting last week about this potential site. More than 125 individuals showed up.
“We want a health ordinance in place to protect local people, farmers and landowners,” said Williams.
This city/county based ordinance would work to counter the state’s loose regulations on factory farms. As it stands in Missouri, up to 17,499 hogs can be located within 2,000 feet of a residence, and an unlimited number can be allowed 3,000 feet from a residence. All hog farms with fewer than 17,500 hogs are exempt from Missouri’s air quality standards.
Pipestone System initially tried to start this new farm in Blackwater, Missouri. When similar concerns arose, residents protested. A.W. Smith’s law firm in Columbia represented landowners pro-bono and the farm began to consider a new location.
The Missouri Rural Crisis Center, which works to protect local and family farms, is also taking on this case.
“There’s this narrative that’s spread by factory farms, saying that [factory farms] are tightly regulated, but they’re not,” said Tim Gibbons, who works for the Center.
Gibbons cited factory farms as a major reason for the decline of family-owned farms. In 1985, Missouri had 23,000 hog farmers. Now, the number rests somewhere around 1,800.
“They claim that they’re a godsend for rural communities, but in actuality we’re seeing the opposite,” said Gibbons. “There’s only one beneficiary here, and it’s the factory farms.”