DANVILLE — The Illinois Department of Agriculture will host a public meeting Monday evening regarding the proposed construction of two new hog farms in the Fithian area.

The meeting was prompted by the filing of a formal petition to the Vermilion County Board's office. Board Chairman Mike Marron said the board is required to conduct the meeting if it receives a petition from 75 or more registered voters, per state statute. He also said the county received a petition with at least 100 signatures on it, which were found to be valid.

"We're just doing what we have to do and provide the forum," Marron said.

The proposed hog farms will by operated by Parks Livestock Inc., and each would house up to 3,360 adult hogs. One proposed facility, Parks Livestock-Radamacher, will be about 2.9 miles northwest of Fithian, and the other, Parks Livestock-Shepherd, will be about 1.5 miles north of Fithian.

Meeting for both hog farms will be Monday in Room 154 of the David S. Palmer Arena, 100 W. Main St. The meeting for the Radamacher facility will begin at 5 p.m. Monday, and the Shepherd facility meeting will start at 8 p.m.

Doug Owens, IDA Livestock Management Facilities Program Manager, said the purpose of the meeting is so both the Department of Agriculture and representatives of the proposed facilities could provide information to the public on the proposal, the rules and requirements to be followed, and a description of the facility's design. He also said members of the public will have the opportunity to ask questions and provide written or oral testimony on the proposals.

Concerned citizens

According to the documents filed with the Vermilion County Board's office, about 100 signed a petition requesting the informational meeting, mostly located in the Fithian area. Other endorsers resided in Muncie, Rankin, Oakwood, Hoopeston, Rossville, Rankin, Danville, Westville and Tilton.

Fithian's John Hul, 95, said he hopes the proposal doesn't go through.

"All of our wells are very shallow wells," he said. "If they get these hog barns, it will make our water undrinkable."

Rod Pierce, also of Fithian, said he signed the petition to get more information on the proposed hog farm facilities.

"Initially I'm against it, only with regards to my property value," Pierce said. "I'm very concerned being located very close to not just one, but two operations with over 3,000 heads in each is going to destroy my property value."

Economic activity

Art Halstead, operations manager for Parks Livestock Inc., said the buildings alone will have a combined investment of $4 million-$5 million. Working with Effingham Equity, he said about the same amount will be invested into pigs for the barns, bringing the total investment up to $8 million-$10 million.

According to Halstead, Parks Livestock operates several hog barns in Iowa and Missouri, and has operated its buying station in Oakwood for about 40 years.

Halstead said they'll go into the full detail of their environmental protection plans at the meeting, and the proposed facilities were designed by the Frank & West Environmental Engineers in Springfield, utilizing a "deep pit" for manure storage. He added manure from the pits will be pumped 5- to 8-inches underground into fields and each facility will produce enough fertilizer for about 500 acres of crops.

Two full-time caretaker positions will be created, Halstead said, along with "a lot of economic activity."

Nic Anderson, with the Illinois Livestock Development Group, said construction of the facilities will be fairly big projects, and they plan to source concrete materials locally. He estimated that 30 to 50 people will work concrete and carpentry tasks on-site, for about three-to-four months, and some specialized building components will be brought in.

If given the green light for operations, Anderson said four-to-five trucks will move animals in and out of the facility and bring in feed on a weekly basis. He also estimated a farm with 3,360 hogs will consume about 150,000 bushels of corn per year.

Anderson also said the feed, comprised of corn and soybean products will be locally sourced. He said, "the equity group that's feeding the pigs just bought elevators to sources from local corn producers."

Each of the new barns would produce well in excess of 1 million pork chops a year, according to Anderson.

"They're adding to the consumer market with the resources of Vermilion County," he said. Anderson also estimated the facilities would produce between 10 to 15 million slices of bacon annually.

"That's a lot of bacon," he said.

According to statistics provided by the Illinois Livestock Development Group, a 2015 economic study reported the livestock industry contributes more than $26 million to the Vermilion County economy, along with 88 jobs. The study also said said a 2,400 head wean to finish hog barn built in the county would generate more than $9,400 in tax revenue.

Proposed hog farms meeting topics:

Members of the public will be afforded the opportunity Monday to present written or oral comment and ask questions about the proposed hog farms. They can also hear evidence presented on the following topics:

• Whether registration and certified livestock waste management requirements are met.

• Whether the design, location or proposed operation will protect the environment.

• Whether the location minimizes any incompatibility with the surrounding areas character by being located in any area zoned for agriculture, where the county has zoning or where the county is not zoned.

• Whether the facility is located within a 100-year flood plain or an otherwise environmentally sensitive area.

• Whether the owner or operator has submitted plans for operation that minimize the likelihood of any environmental damage to the surrounding area from spills, runoff and leaching.

• Whether odor control plans are reasonable and incorporate reasonable or innovative odor reduction technologies.

• Whether traffic patterns minimize the effect on existing traffic flows.

• Whether a new facility is consistent with existing community growth, tourism, recreation, or economic development.

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