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Hog Confinement Opponents Celebrate One 'Victory' But Expect More Battles

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LINN COUNTY, Iowa - A controversial hog confinement plan for northern Linn County is off for now. But opponents don't plan to celebrate just yet.

A permit application by Matt Ditch called for raising 5,600 hogs at a time in buildings on his family's farm at 4853 W. Otter Road. That's several miles east of Center Point. But the Iowa Department of Natural Resources told neighbors at a meeting Tuesday night that Ditch voluntarily withdrew his application.

Gene Tinker, an animal feeding coordinator with the DNR in Manchester, said Ditch could abandon the whole idea, reduce the number of hogs below the need for a special permit or redo the application.

Opponents in the area organized in October against the confinement plan because they feared manure would contaminate groundwater and a nearby creek as well as depress property values. Larry Martinson, who owns the Martinson Sod Farm located about a mile east, worries about the odor as well. With prevailing winds out of the west, he would likely confront that particular problem as often as any neighbor.

"Definitely a family farm type operation would be much more acceptable because with a family farm you don't have 5,000 head of hogs," Martinson said.

Neighbors opposed to the original plan say anything beyond 500 hogs, to them, indicates a "factory farm" operation that would create problems for people living nearby.

The Ditch family did not respond to messages for comment about future plans.

But Tinker of the DNR said he was told informally the family would file a "better" plan the next time.

And other opponents fully expect to go through the whole process again.

Deb Theisen said "I think he may reapply, but the pressure's going to be on and we won't give up." Another opponent, Regina Behmlander added "we're just going to be here every time to try to stop it."

Behmlander said one "sign" opponents are gearing up for a long battle may be the yard signs near the proposed hog confinement project. The original signs saying things like "no factory farms" were handmade. Opponents are not buying professionally-made signs to put up for the long term.

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