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Neighbors Stepping up Opposition to Large Hog Confinement

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CENTER POINT, Iowa - Neighbors opposed to a large hog confinement operation east of this community have kicked their efforts up a notch. A group paid for a billboard on a main street in Center Point this week urging one family to withdraw plans for a confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) permit.

An application for a feeding operation for 5,600 hogs per year was filed by Matt Ditch last fall. Linn County Supervisors opposed the proposal at 4853 West Otter Road then. Ditch withdrew that application.

But the Ditch family came back with a smaller proposal this spring for 4,160 hogs. That number is critical because it falls below the number of confined animals that require a special type of Department of Natural Resources permit. And with the need for no special permit, county supervisors cannot vote on the proposal.

Neighbors near the West Otter Road site attended a public hearing before supervisors on Monday. Supervisors are forwarding the comments to the DNR, but unlike last fall can't take a vote on the proposal.

The billboard in Center Point went up about a week ago. Opponents say they collected $400 to pay for the short term rental. The billboard directly addresses the Ditch family with the words "please do not reduce our property values or pollute our air and water." It was signed "your neighbors."

Neighbors say they resorted to a billboard, in additional to numerous homemade signs throughout the area, to emphasis the fact the battle is far from over.

The Ditch family application to the DNR is based on claims an existing hog operation housing about 300 animals there now would simply be expanded to more than 4,000. But opponents say the application is faulty because Matt Ditch is not currently the listed owner of the property and a switch from a mostly outdoor hog operation to a much larger indoor facility should require a completely new application.

Neighbors say the DNR is considering their arguments and should have an answer in a few days. Matt Ditch did not return calls for comment.

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