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Hog farm expansion may face opposition

by Ivan Foley
Landmark editor

A Farley area farmer this week detailed plans his family has to expand its hog farm operation.

His plans could be met with opposition. A letter to the editor by a leader of the group known as Concerned Citizens of Platte County in last week's issue of The Landmark brought the issue to public attention without listing the name of the farmer in question.

Gary Oberdiek of Oberdiek Family Farms says the operation referenced in the letter is his family's.

"That's us," he said this week as he explained his family's intention to convert a couple of its current "finishing" buildings to nurseries and add two 1,100-head finishing buildings.

They'll also have one existing 350-head finishing building on the farm, which is located a mile and a half west of Farley in the river bottom.

The plans are pending approval from the Department of Natural Resources. Approval would come no sooner than 30 days, he said. Even if approved that soon, he doesn't believe construction would begin until after the first of the year.

DNR accepts written public comment for a 30-day period. Letters recently went out to nine nearby landowners with an invitation to send written comments to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources Water Pollution Control Program, PO Box 176, Jefferson City, Mo., 65102-0176.

Oberdiek says no neighbors have contacted him with serious concerns, other than to get to know his plans.

Still, a group of potential opponents have announced they'll gather at the Farley Fire Station Thursday night at 7 p.m. to discuss the proposed expansion.

The new buildings would be "high rise," Oberdiek said.

"It's like a two-story building. Pigs are on the second story. There's a slatted floor and on the bottom floor you put two ft. of wood shavings and blow air through it. The waste falls down and you dry it out. The waste goes from about 90% moisture to about 50% moisture," he explained.

He said he visited a similar operation in Ohio, where the operation seems to be going smoothly.

"They haven't detected any hydrogen sulfide and the ammonia levels are extremely low. There's a house about 100-150 yards away from it," Oberdiek said, trying to calm fears of "deadly gases" mentioned in the letter written last week by Sally Radmacher.

Once dried, the hog manure is then spread on surrounding farmland as fertilizer.

"DNR's primary concern is water quality. They look at the type of waste handling system you have and whether you have enough acres to spread the waste that's created, and whether they see any potential for water pollution," Oberdiek stated.

An engineer hired by the family told them he doesn't see any problem because there are about 700 to 800 acres of cropland on which to spread the waste.

Oberdiek said the area is in a flood plain, but doesn't foresee a problem.

"It's in a 500 year flood plain. It's not a concern. In 1993 when many areas flooded, we had seep water in low ground, but no flood water.

"We're not going to build on low ground," he said.

Opponents have mentioned concerns about a potential flood.

"That is a lot of manure to handle in the Missouri River flood plain, especially with the charming city of Parkville down river from the proposed site," Radmacher wrote in her letter last week.

"My dad and brother and I all live out here (near the hog operation). My family has been here for over 100 years. My dad is 81 and he says there's always been hogs here," Oberdiek added.

Oberdiek said Radmacher's contention in last week's letter that "if the owners receive this classification (Type 1C), they can expand without further notification to 7,500 finishing hogs" is incorrect.

"That is not accurate. If we want to add another building we would have to go through all the same steps again through DNR. You're only permitted for what you're doing right now" on your permit application, Oberdiek contends.

He added he invites the public to come visit his farm for a tour and explanation of plans this Saturday, Oct. 6. He'll give tours beginning at 1 p.m. and then again at 4 p.m., with one hour designated for each time slot.

The farm is located at 23905 Oberdiek Lane near Farley. He said anyone with questions can call him at 330-3279.