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Palo Alto County’s Good Neighbor Policy Has Worked For 17 Years

September 11, 2014
Emmetsburg News

Letter to the Editor,

The following is a written summary of testimony given on August 19 by the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors ("Supervisors") before the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission ("IEPC").

In 1997, the Supervisors along with George Hammond, the ISU Extension Education Director held public meetings to discuss solutions to the livestock concentration in our county. Those attending included independent pork producers, corporate pork producers, beef producers, corn growers, soybean growers, and the Palo Alto County Farm Bureau.

Our Good Neighbor Policy was the final product from many late nights. The policy banned all new earthen lagoons and required that any hog confinement building be at least one-half mile from any human residence.

The policy has worked well. Murphy Family Farms, Iowa Select, and Kerber Milling all signed on. Many more corporations since 1997 have honored our policy

Not all building sites have met our Good Neighbor Policy. Our County Supervisors have issued waivers when close neighbors sign off and say that they don't care if an individual or corporation builds inside the half-mile distance. Some people have not been able to build buildings in our county because of the Policy. Also, many people have had to move their buildings to a different site to honor our Good Neighbor Policy. Only a few bad apples have decided to disregard our policy completely. In fact, just eight of 209 building sites in our county were built in violation of the policy. So, less than 4-percent of the time have people thumbed their noses at our citizens, our Zoning Board, and our Supervisors.

Unfortunately, a commissioner on the IEPC is one of those who has thumbed their noses at our Policy. Brent Rastetter had to excuse himself from this hearing because he is employed by a corporation that is currently breaking our Good Neighbor Policy in Palo Alto County.

Overall, the Supervisors and citizens of Palo Alto County have been very pleased with how well this Good Neighbor Policy has worked, because people would rather negotiate than litigate. It has proven how corporations and people can deal with a problem, and then agree on solutions that make everyone happy.

In fact, the IEPC itself has recognized the success of our Policy in the past as well. At your invitation, our county attended a Commission meeting on Nov. 21, 2005 to describe our Good Neighbor Policy. You had heard about the success of our Policy during its first eight years and wanted to learn more about it.

As you know, while our Good Neighbor Policy has a minimum requirement of one-half mile, the minimum requirement in the state is less than one-fourth mile. I doubt many of you live one-fourth mile from someone else's hogs. Ironically, it appears that many hog corporations now have their own policy similar to our Good Neighbor Policy. In the last five or six years, many of those corporations have established policies to maintain a separation of at least a mile between their buildings and other corporate hog buildings to protect against diseases and PED. It seems that some hog corporations are more concerned about pigs than people.

Supervisors are elected to office - they are not appointed. When we promise that we will make our county a better place to work and a better place to live, we take that promise very seriously. And economic development in our county is a priority. We support young farmers getting started in our county. We support bringing more hog buildings into our county, if they follow the rules.

Our Good Neighbor Policy has not hurt pork production in Palo Alto County. We currently have 209 manure management plans in our county (215 if you count the plans that overlap from neighboring counties). In 1994, we had sites that held over 273,000 hogs in Palo Alto County. Today, we have building sites that hold over 750,000 hogs. Given that those buildings are filled 2.5 times every year, Palo Alto County has an annual hog population of almost two million hogs. In fact, our county is ranked eighth in the State of Iowa in hog population, and 17th in the United States.

Those numbers make it clear that our Good Neighbor Policy has not regulated pork production out of our county. In fact, many corporations have told us that they love having buildings in our county, because they know that they will not be harassed if they abide by our policy.

This policy has worked for 17 years and the people who helped put it together especially the citizens in our County and the people who honor it deserve a lot of credit. After 17 years, it should be the law of the land and the law of Palo Alto County.

(signed) The Palo Alto County


Ed Noonan, Chairman

L.J. Solberg, Vice Chairman

Ron Graettinger, Keith Wirtz,

Craig Merrill



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