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Clay County hog lot looks to triple its capacity to 3,600

HAWLEY, Minn.—The owner of a Clay County hog farm is seeking county approval to expand the operation, tripling the number of animals it can house.

Baer Hogs of rural Hawley has applied for a permit to build a new facility that would house 2,400 hogs in addition to the 1,200 hogs the farm can currently handle.

Owner Benedikt Baer said the expansion will help the local economy, as he'll purchase locally grown corn as feed for his hogs and provide manure local farmers can use as fertilizer. But he expects to hear from neighbors who are against the expansion.

"We've always had opposition at every hearing we've had. Truck traffic on the roads. And there are always concerns over odors and flies," Baer said.

However, he believes his new production systems will minimize the problems.

"Rain water doesn't get in, the manure can't get out, doesn't leach out, it's all concrete-lined, rebar-reinforced, so it stays contained," Baer said.

Clay County Planning Director Tim Magnusson seems to agree, calling it a "pretty good proposal." "Probably the biggest one that will come is is how the manure is dealt with," Magnusson said of concerns to be raised by opponents. "The Baer family has gotten very good at that."

Before a permit is issued, Clay County will listen to any concerns the community may have.

"The Planning Commission will hear their proposal. We'll take public input, pro and con, and make a determination if there's any issues," Magnusson said.

In 2007, Baer Hogs applied for a similar permit in a different location, but it was denied due to groundwater concerns.

The public hearing will be held at a Planning Commission meeting that starts at 7 p.m. Tuesday on the third floor of the Clay County Courthouse.