DARKE COUNTY — It was standing room only as a sizable number of area residents attended the Darke County Board of Commissioners meeting Wednesday to express their disapproval of hog farms being planned just outside of Greenville.
A group of approximately 75 people gathered at the commissioners’ meeting, hoping that the board would be able to offer some type of assistance in preventing the establishment of four hog farms off Beanblossom and Arnold Roads, approximately one mile northwest of the Greenville city limits .
Their message to the board was simple.
“We think this project is too close to too many people and simply too close to civilization,” said Beanblossom homeowner Steve Litchfield.
Residents noted a number of issues prompting their concern, including the smell of hog manure, the possibility of the local water supply being affected, a potential decrease in home values, and an increase in truck traffic on area roads.
As it currently stands, four members of the Drew family are planning to build four hog farms on 200 acres of land in the area. The four contiguous farms would be separately owned by the four individuals, and each farm would raise approximately 2,000 hogs apiece. Construction of the farms’ buildings has not yet begun.
Those opposed to the farms claim that the family is skirting the spirit of the law, as the number of hogs at each farm falls below the number of hogs which would require closer regulation by the state.
“I am in disbelief that a loophole exists in our state laws to allow for thousands of hogs to be at a single location without any Ohio Department of Agriculture permits or inspections,” said local resident Carey Driscoll.
“We want to maintain and protect our quality of life, our health, our environment and our property values,” she added. “Let’s keep Darke County a beautiful place for families to live. What will our overall community gain by having 8,000 hogs within a mile of 100 families’ homes and just over a mile to the city limits? What will we potentially lose?”
Dr. Daniel Berger, a farm owner on Beanblossom, registered his professional opinion on the issue. Citing health concerns, especially in regards to the young and the elderly, he said, “As a physician, and as a citizen of this county since 1982, and the county in which my father was born and raised (in 1910), the medical risks and burdens of this proposed project supersede any reasonable benefit.”
While expressing sympathy to the residents who attended the meeting, Commissioner Mike Rhoades explained that the commissioners, nor any other city or county legislative body, cannot legally prevent the farms from being built, as such action falls under the auspices of the Ohio General Assembly.
Any remedy to the situation would need to come from that body, he said, and urged the residents to contact elected state officials for redress.
“Our hands are tied,” said Rhoades, “We have no jurisdiction.”
He added, “We understand, we hear what you’re saying, we really do. There’s been a lot of facts brought up here.”
“As for myself and the two [other] commissioners,” he continued, “I would like for us to step back, compile our thoughts, do our notes, and see what we can come up with. The truth being, we have no jurisdiction whatsoever. A lot of you think that we have a lot of power. The only power we’ve got is taking the taxpayers money and spending it.”
Commissioner Diane Delaplane said, “I do want to keep agriculture in Darke County, that is our bread and butter right here in Darke County. However, I also want agriculture to stay in the good graces of our community.”
In response to criticism from area residents, Rod Drew, one of the family members planning to construct a hog farm, told The Daily Advocate:
“As lifelong residents of Darke County, my family and I are disappointed in the time and energy our neighbors have spent fighting the proposed hog barns and assaulting our character and our business, instead of talking to us directly about their concerns.”
“A couple of months ago, my wife, Jonie, and I sat down with neighbors and explained our new project, hoping to avoid any issues,” he continued. “Instead of working with us, a website fighting the hog barns was launched. Many similar facilities are in production throughout Darke County, and the planned facility is consistent with best farming practices and Ohio laws. We have raised hogs for many years on our family farms and have never had the first complaint or issue filed against any of our operations. At present, we are reviewing our legal options.”