Hog farm backers speak to Wagner, S.D., community
WAGNER, S.D. (AP) — Officials of an Iowa company building a large-scale hog farm near Wagner tried to assure area residents Monday night that they’re doing their best to make sure the operation won’t smell, pollute the air and water or harm people.
The crowd of several hundred was skeptical and frequently interrupted speakers with catcalls and shouts of "liar."
Members of the Yankton Sioux Tribe oppose the farm and staged protests near the site last week. At one point, more than 40 South Dakota Highway Patrol cars were at the site, but the troopers left when the protest remained peaceful.
At the request of the tribe, the 11 Iowa farmers who own Long View Farm did not attend Monday night’s meeting.
Officials representing the farm said they agreed to hold the meeting from 7 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. When 9:30 arrived, they said they had answered all the questions they could and they were leaving.
The gathering ended with a chorus of boos from the audience.
John Stone, vice president of the Yankton Sioux Tribe, said his tribe will continue its effort to stop construction and that protesters would be back on the road at the site Tuesday.
"We wake up tomorrow and we finish what we started," Stone said after the meeting. "I’m 100 percent sure we’re going to win this situation."
Opponents include not only American Indians, but all ethnic groups in the area, he said.
Long View Farm officials have said the operation could house an average of 3,350 sows and produce 70,000 pigs a year. The young pigs would be shipped to farms in Iowa when they are a couple of weeks old.
Construction is just getting under way, and the first hogs could be placed in the facility as early as September.
Jeff Kayser, who works for a company that is building and will manage operations at the farm, said the project includes many features designed to avoid pollution.
"These things are all concerns for the environment, for our employees, our animals and our neighbors," Kayser said.
Many in the crowd shouted with disgust as Kayser left the meeting, but he told reporters he wanted to thank everyone who attended. "We still look forward to becoming good neighbors with all Charles Mix County residents."
Members of the tribe and their supporters arrived at the meeting carrying flags and accompanied by the beat of traditional drums. Children in the group carried signs urging Long View Farm to abandon the project.
Those who asked questions during the meeting said they are worried the hog farm will smell, release poisonous gases and pollute the water.
The crowd applauded when a boy asked whether pollution from the farm would enter the nearby Missouri River and make it dangerous to eat the fish he catches there.
"We’re going to do our best within the scope of our operation to keep everything out of the water," Kayser said.
But as engineers and others involved in the construction spoke, people in the crowd held up signs saying, "Liar" and "Go back to Iowa."
Claudette Arcoren, a Rosebud Sioux Tribal Council member, told the crowd her tribe supports the Yankton Sioux effort to stop the hog farm. A large hog farm built on the Rosebud reservation has been a disaster, she said.
"What the people here are telling you may sound good, but it’s lies," Arcoren said.
People involved in the Long View Farm project said it will cost $6 million to build and eventually will have 12 employees. The site was chosen out of 11 potential sites partly because it is isolated from other animals, which will help keep disease away from the pigs, they said.
Engineer Todd Van Maanen said the facility is designed so it will be odor-free 99 percent of the time within a mile or mile and a half away from the hog barns. The prevailing wind does not blow toward Marty or any other towns, he said.
He said manure stored on the site will not leak because it will be held in concrete pits until it is hauled to nearby farms and injected to the soil as fertilizer. The construction site sits on top of clay, which would act as a second barrier to prevent the movement of water or manure if the pits ever leaked, Van Maanen said.
The hog-confinement operation is on private land under state jurisdiction, but it is near tribal land and only 4 miles from Marty, the tribe’s headquarters.
A lawyer for Long View Farm said construction was stopped over the weekend until after Monday night’s meeting. Work crews have been building a driveway into the site.
A judge in the Yankton Sioux Tribal Court last week granted the tribe’s petition for the exclusion and removal of the hog farm developers. A tribal lawyer said that ruling basically prohibits the developers from traveling across reservation land to get to the site.
Demonstrators have not blocked access to the site, which is located on private land, but part of the road leading to the site is on trust land, which is under the tribe’s jurisdiction.
State officials have said the hog farm has obtained all the permits it needs for construction.
Brad Greenway, who farms near Mitchell, said his family became part owners of a similar hog farm a few years ago. The hog barns are a mile and a half from his house.
"This is my land. My children are here. We’re drinking the water. We’re breathing the same air," said Greenway, who is not affiliated with hog farm being built near Wagner.
The hog manure that is used to fertilize crop land replaces petroleum-based chemical fertilizer, Greenway said. "This is as natural as it gets."