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Crowd packs into Sibley hearing

(Photo by Ross Brown)

SIBLEY – Supporters and opponents of a proposed hog farm west of Sibley packed the Sullivant Town Hall Thursday night at a hearing for the facility.

23-year-old Philip Hartman plans to construct a 121-foot by 380-foot finishing house on the southeast corner of a farm located a mile and a half west of Sibley. Hartman told the Illinois Department of Agriculture that he and his brother along with their father, Ryan Hartman, will operate a 5,600-head facility.

Hartman’s attorney, Jake Nims of Frank and West law firm in Springfield, told audience members that the facility meets all IDOA guidelines. He said the facility would be 1,540 feet from residences and 3,080 feet from Sibley, well above state setback requirements. The building would have the capacity to store manure for up to one year, with the manure being spread on the 630-acre farm located there using an injection method. He said no manure would be released in an uncontrolled manner and that clean drinking water would be diverted away from the building. The farm would receive four trucks each week for feed and animal transportation.

Several residents and other livestock farmers spoke both for and against the facility. Sibley resident Marge Vetter said that Sibley opposes the hog farm because of the smell it would bring and she believed that would cut down on tourism, noting residents recently funded a revitalization project of the downtown area. She also presented a written petition opposing the facility which was signed by 83 Sibley residents. Her husband, Paul Vetter, asked Philip Hartman about the farm’s purpose. Hartman said the farm would be a contract operation with hogs coming from Leman Farms of Eureka, and that the facility would not be subject to regular inspections. Fellow farmer Mike Brown asked if the facility would be ventilated and Hartman said that it would.

Rural Sibley resident Rich Perkins spoke out against the facility, noting that he lives a mile from two hog farms operated by the Mueller family, and he said he cannot open his windows at times due to the smell. Bill Holliday also worried that the hog farm would destroy tourism, small businesses and property values, adding that he believed the facility would be “too close to town.” He also noted the proposed construction of a similar facility owned by the Muellers that would be built the same distance from Sibley to the east, saying the town would be boxed-in by hog farms.

But several speakers urged IDOA to approve the facility. Mike Haag of the Illinois Pork Producers’ Association said he was excited to see new generations coming back. IPPA member Mike Borgtic said Illinois has many hog operations without many complaints.

Dirk Rice with the Illinois Corn Marketing Board said the Hartmans are “doing everything right” by living on the farm. Rural Paxton farmer Jim Niewold, representing the Illinois Farm Bureau, said farming and the economy are good for families and added “They’ll do what they say they’ll do.” Gibson City native Tasha Bunting, who works for IFB, said the Hartmans are meeting all criteria, and Nick Anderson of the Illinois Livestock Development Group noted that Sibley was built around farming and agriculture and said he thinks Sibley should commemorate it.”

The Ford County Board now has until March 5 to send a recommendation or opposition letter to IDOA, and then the state agency has until March 20 to make a final decision.

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