Without a lot of attention or controversy, representatives of several large swine production firms, livestock producers and Palo Alto County residents gathered together 16 years ago to discuss the changing face of livestock production and its effects on Palo Alto County.
Through discussions, proposals and agreements, a document known as the Good Neighbor Policy came into existence. The Good Neighbor Policy set forth guidelines on the locating, or siting, of livestock confinement facilities in the county.
In the ensuing 16 years, livestock producers and residents in Palo Alto County have enjoyed a relatively smooth co-existence, using the guidelines set forth by the Good Neighbor Policy.
But, in the past year, there have been several instances where livestock confinements were built with disregard to the policy, which began to raise concerns of members of the Palo Alto County Planning and Zoning Board, along with the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors.
On Tuesday morning, the two groups hosted a meeting at the Palo Alto County Election Center to re-visit the Good Neighbor Policy. Along with the original livestock producers involved in the development of the Good Neighbor Policy, firms which have come into the area since 1997 were also invited to the meeting to "touch base" on what the policy was intended to do.
"We're not here to re-invent the Good Neighbor Policy," Palo Alto County Zoning Administrator Joe Neary said. " It is just our desire to get some re-affirmations from you that you will abide by the policy."
According to Neary, the first 10 years that the policy was in existence, there was overwhelming compliance with the policy.
"Understand, this Good Neighbor Policy has no legal authority, because it cannot be more restrictive than state law," Neary noted. "But, people were willing to abide by it and meet the requirements. There were some instances where operations were built closer than the half-mile, but waivers were obtained in most of those cases."
"Back in 1997, we felt this was an important step in addressing the concerns of people in the rural areas about where livestock operations were being built,"?agreed Zoning Board Chair Dean Gunderson. "The Good Neighbor Policy resolution has helped ease a lot of concerns in that time."
Gunderson continued, "Planning and Zoning agreed that this was a good time to get together and get everybody back on the same page, and to show our desire and compartment to keep this policy and allow it to be a success."
When the policy was first developed, representatives of the Palo Alto County Farm Bureau, Pork Producers, local farmers and representatives of Iowa Select, Hawkeye One and Murphy Family Farms had gathered to arrive at the policy.
On Tuesday, newcomers to the industry; Christensen Farms and Prestige Farms were present at the meeting, along with representatives of the Farm Bureau and Kerber Companies, the parent of Hawkeye One.
Palo Alto County Supervisor Linus Solberg, who had been involved in the development of the original policy, also praised the success of the policy.
"We don't have any say over the state's rules, but a lot of people have abided by the Good Neighbor Policy and it has carried some weight,"?Solberg said. "It took a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get it passed and its worked good. We hope it will continue to do so."
"I think the Good Neighbor Policy was well thought out," noted Jeff Kerber of the Kerber Companies. "We realize it is not legally binding, but that it is a show of good faith, and that's what this is all about - respecting the other people around us. Let's keep the bar raised in Palo Alto County and respect each other by abiding with the Good Neighbor Policy."
Adam Barka of Christensen Farms agreed. "It's always been our policy to work with our neighbors on siting."
Steve Crawford of Prestige Farms admitted when their company first began locating in the county, they were unaware of the policy, but said they would try to be good neighbors in the future, but noted that landowners are also a factor in the equation when it comes to siting of livestock operations.
"All we can ask is that you treat people as well as you treat your hogs,"?noted Supervisor Ed Noonan, as the meeting came to a conclusion.
Good Neighbor Policy
* Applicants must be present for zoning meetings
to answer questions on their proposal
* A separation distance to the nearest residence shall be one-half mile unless waivers are signed
by the affected nneighbors
*This policy will allow for continued growth of livestock industry while also addressing concerns expressed by neighbors of facilities