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Published July 16, 2014, 10:26 AM

Neighbors say SD farm’s hog odor is too much

The neighbors of one of the largest swine farms in South Dakota’s Davison County said Tuesday the owners are not doing enough to make sure the farm’s odor is limited.

By: Marcus Traxler, Forum News Service

The neighbors of one of the largest swine farms in South Dakota’s Davison County said Tuesday the owners are not doing enough to make sure the farm’s odor is limited.

During the County Commission meeting’s public input portion Tuesday at the Davison County North Offices, residents Dave Truesdell, Lyle Reimnitz, Greg Bult and Craig Moller appeared before the board to tell the commissioners that the smell is too strong from Jackrabbit Family Farms, located about 10 miles south of Mount Vernon.

Because the issue was not on the agenda, no official action was taken.

Truesdell, who lives within a mile of the farm located in Baker Township, said the farm has not held up its end of the deal it made with the county when the project was approved in 2012.

“They agreed to be good neighbors. If this is being a good neighbor, they might as well leave,” he said, adding that he thinks the heavy smell has made his wife sick at times.

About 5,000 sows are housed on the farm and produce about 3,000 piglets each week. The Jackrabbit farm is owned by shareholders in South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa and is managed by the Pipestone System, which manages hog confinement operations for private owners. The sow barn produces piglets, which are then allotted out to investors based on the shares owned. Bluestem Family Farms, a hog operation in Beulah Township in Davison County owned by a group of farmer investors, is operated by Pipestone.

The project faced resistance when the Davison County Commission approved it in 2012, including questions posed by Reimnitz regarding the dust and the odor.

Commission Chairman John Claggett said he thanked the neighbors for coming in and said he hopes to meet in person with Jackrabbit Family Farms representatives to work on ways to address the issue.

Messages left for Pipestone CEO Luke Minion were unreturned Tuesday.

The complaints center on the barns’ exhaust system, which are referred to as biofilters.

According to a timeline provided by Davison County Planning and Zoning Deputy Director Nathan Wegner, the county has been told by representatives of Jackrabbit Family Farms that the biofilters are meant to keep disease out of the facilities, but don’t necessarily mitigate smell from the hog site.

Early in the conditional use permit process, the county mandated use of the biofilters as part of the project, but the installation of those was not a final requirement when it was approved 4-0 by the commissioners.

What is in place now is not working for neighbors, they said.

“You walk outside and just about d—- near gag,” Truesdell said.

“They said it was going to stink 2 percent of the time,” said neighbor Lyle Reimnitz, who lives a mile from the operation. “That’s the biggest load of bull I’ve ever heard.”

Wegner reported to the commissioners that the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources indicated to him they usually don’t do much with odor control and would not weigh in on the matter. He also said it depends largely on the wind direction and speed.

Planning and Zoning Administrator Jeff Bathke stated he inspected the site in late May and the wind was fairly calm, leaving only a slight smell that was detected within a mile of the site.

Commissioners Gerald Weiss and Denny Kiner received multiple calls about the odor emanating from the farm in May and said there is an issue.

“I drove around that,” Weiss said. “I’ve got to admit there’s some smell.”

Kiner said the issue has to be addressed, and this meeting will be a start.

“I’m paying taxes and I can’t open the windows in my house,” Reimnitz said. “Is that fair?”

The farm’s owners have planted trees on three sides of the farm, according to Wegner. The planting of trees was a conditional use permit requirement.

The county commissioners said they would like to put together a group that would examine the situation at Jackrabbit Family Farms and perhaps look at other biofilter situations before addressing the issue.