County Unanimously OK’s Uniontown Hog CAFO

At nearly 1:30 a.m. last Wednesday morning-after nearly 6-hours of allowing supporters and opponents have their say- a Seymour family got approval for their proposed confined hog feeding operation west of Uniontown in Vernon Township.

The Jackson County Board of Zoning Appeals voted 4-0 to grant a special exception for Kyle and Leah Broshears of Broshears Family Farm LLC, allowing the couple to pursue state approval for the 4,000-head feeder-to-finish confined hog operation.

The Seymour couple’s proposed CAFO, if eventually approved by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, will be set on 10 acres northwest of county roads 1050E and 200S near Uniontown north of State Road 250.

The BZA board decided the couple’s proposed operation exceeds current requirements-setbacks of 300 feet and at least three acres- and is in an area zoned for agricultural use.

An overflow crowd which filled the Jackson County Courtroom in Brownstown and spilled out into the hallway.

Kyle & Leah Broshears, who grew up in farm families, outlined their operation and answered questions asked by the board.

They, along with their agricultural consultant Carrie Keller Steele, said the approximately $900,000 operation would be built on property currently being bought on contract by Leah Broshears’ parents, Max and Brenda Klosterman. A purchase agreement from Klostersmans to Broshears for 10 acres would be signed if the BZA approves their special exception, she said.

The family, which will have a contract with Jackson Jennings Co-op, will construct an 81-by-417 foot building to house the feeder-to-finish hog operation. Manure will be stored in a concrete pit that holds about 1 million gallons. That manure will be injected into fields owned by the couple and their extended families.

The couple said the entrance to the proposed operation along County Road 1050E will see an average of three to four trucks per week.

In addition, they said the feed for the swine will contain an odor-reducing additive, and the building will be located at the farthest point possible to maximize setback distances from the closest residence.

“The feed additive is effective to reduce odors about 25%,” said Broshears.

The property on two sides of the building is enrolled in a government-protected woodlands program and can never be developed for residential use, and the property is surrounded by trees, Broshears said.

He said he intends to build an earthen berm that will cause water to flow away from the wetland area.

Broshears said the facility will be subject to bienniel reviews to maintain sound environmental and production practices.

The family told the board they will not live on the grounds and will stay in Seymour. They said they will not be using biofilters.

Bridges asked about the biofilters because she said they would be a plus for those living around them.

“I think it’s just being a good neighbor,” she said.

“I’m not saying they don’t work,” Broshears said. “We feel the feed additive will exceed the need for bio-filters.”

Max Klosterman, father of Leah Broshears and who would be selling 10 acres to his daughter and son-in-law, said about a third of the manure produced by the operation would be applied to local fields as a fertilizer. “The rest would need to be trucked to other fields for application,” he said.

Broshears said that manure hauling would occur for “short durations once or twice a year, depending on the weather.” He added that semi tankers carrying 6,000 gallons would truck manure to farm locations for injecting into fields. “Nearly all hog producers truck manure then inject it inches below the soil surface to decrease odor,” he said.

About 10 supporters came forward and spoke on the behalf of the couple, complimenting the family on their hard work and commitment to farming and other endeavors in their lives, including Kyle Broshears’ trucking company and Leah Broshears’ work as a nurse.

Supporters said they didn’t see any health concerns or downfalls to the production, don’t believe a CAFO will decrease property value for surrounding residents and hope to see pork production and farming increase.

Opponents, however, disagreed with some of those statements. Many opponents were a part of ‘HUBERT,’ which stands for Help Us Build Ethical Rural Trust, an homage to Hubert Brumett, 92-year-old neighbor with respiratory problems who lives near the proposed hog farm.

Trina McLain, who opened up the discussion in opposition, lives a quarter-mile from the proposed site. She cited health concerns, material harm and impact on quality of life for about 485 homes in that area.

“This is a very populated area, and most of these homes will be downwind from this site,” she said.

Opponents took the podium and spoke for hours, referring to other factors, such as odors, truck traffic and water contamination to wells and the nearby Muscatatuck River from stored manure.

Neighbor John Rothring, the former BZA attorney, reminded the board that they could deny a petition for special exception, according to the county’s Master Zoning Plan, if it will materially injure neighbors. He told the board that appraisals on his property show that it would decrease 40% with a CAFO nearby. “That’s a $50,000 hit if you let them in. That is material injury,” he said.

Several others spoke to decreased property values and presented real estate appraisals to the BZA.

Eric Hilton, who plans to build a mile away from the CAFO on US 31, said the operation will greatly affect the amount of a mortgage loan his family could receive from the bank.

Hilton said that his appraisal with a CAFO nearby came in $33,000 less. “My building costs didn’t decrease but because of the appraisal, my bank now wants more money up front to approve the loan.”

Some residents spoke of current health problems and the impact of the CAFO could have and expressed worries for their children or family members and how it could affect them.

Drs. Chad Smith and Wes Whittler said that the community had seen an increase is MRSA infections. MRSA is a bacterial infection which is resistant to drug treatment. Smith, a resident of the area, cited a journal of American Medicine Association study which showed residents living near CAFO’s have a 38% greater risk of contracting MRSA because of manure applied to fields.

“We’re not attacking agriculture or family farming as a way of making a living,” said Whittler. “That’s never been a problem. The problem is transiting to the factory farm and finding an appropriate location.”

After allowing everyone who wanted to speak their three-minute say, the BZA noting that the application exceeds current county setbacks, minimum acreage and is going into an area zone agricultural, voted unanimously to approve the Broshears Family Farm LLC petition.

The next step for the Broshearses will be to survey and deed off the appropriate parcel. Then they will make their application with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

“This is a lengthy process that usually takes several months,” Broshears said. “Once IDEM approval is in place, we would hope to begin construction next spring or summer.”