The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on May 17, 1998 · Page 5
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 5

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Salina, Kansas
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Sunday, May 17, 1998
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Page 5
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THE SALINA JOURNAL OP-ED SUNDAY. MAY 17, 1998 AB T BY GEORGE Roll out the red tape for hog operations GEORGE B. PYLE The Sallna Journal Hqg farfns cannot be stopped, but they can, artf! must, be regulated A fter all these years, Charles Archer still insists that "60 Minutes" got it wrong. Halifax County, N.C., was not, is not?" and will not be a smelly pit of pig^manure unfit A forrhuman habita- tioiSf Bjut, as county majnager of Mali- faxjwArcher is the firaf to say that it took some action by ills county gov- erijment to keep it tha£way. Several years agoV, Archer told a roomful of Kansas cotftity commis- siofters last week, Halifax County was optimistic abpjit landing a new factory for its economically troubled community. £jtt was a factory that made tables for restaurants and Halifax, in (he northeast part of North Car- olitta, was in a good spot to help themanufacturer cut back significantly on its shipping costs. B°ut one Sunday, Archer said, "60*Minutes" aired a report about the controversy over huge hog farming operations in North Carolina. Among the communities displayed as a victim of serious water pollution and overpowering foul smells was Halifax County. It wasn't true, Archer insists. Other counties may have had such problems, he argued, but not Halifax! , But Monday morning the representative of the table company called and said he'd seen the program the. night before and was having second thoughts about Halifax as a place he would want tOido business. Archer tried to convince the man that the report was inaccurate, that Halifax County was a clean, sweet- smelling pocket of the South that would be a wonderful place to set up shop. •It was no good. Archer never heard from that company again. He did, however, start hearing from hog growers. The business of large hog operations was big in North Carolina and getting bigger. The lure of big money was too much to easily resist, and Halifax, like many counties outside North Carolina's university-driven Research Triangle, suffered from high unemployment and a stagnant economy. Still, the loss of the table company rang in Archer's ears. And he was not the only one who was not completely sold on the idea of making money by turning the beloved landscape into an open sewer. Attract a huge hog farm, Archer knew, and it may be the last thing you ever attract. State law in North Carolina, as in Kansas, does not allow counties to ban or limit agricultural uses. But North Carolina law does allow counties to use a specific process to make laws protecting public health. So into the breech stepped the previously little-known Halifax County Board of Health, a body chartered by the state and composed, by law, of people who are trained to know what they are talking about — doctors, nurses, veterinarians and such. The board of health in turn appointed a task force that included farmers, farm experts, soil conservation officials and representatives of the hog operations. That process led to a set of rules that took the coming of large-scale hog operations — known in the code as intensive livestock operations — as a given. But it set stringent regulations for what could flow out of those ILOs, whether they were pigs, chickens or cows. It required a permit process and inspections and required sewage disposal systems that met standards similar to those required of cities. Such standards make sense, of course, because hogs produce a lot of sewage. An ILO with 2,200 sows, not uncommon in North Carolina, produces as much waste as a city the size of Salina. The rules were adopted in 1992, imposed and enforced. In 1993, the rules were tightened twice, tightened enough that some of the new, smaller ILOs immediately went out of business. Since 1993, no new ILOs have come to Halifax County. Those that have make money and add to the local economy without fouling the air or the water. In fact, Archer claims, the water in Halifax County today is cleaner that it was a decade ago. Some previously dead wetlands have even come back to life. And, although that table manufacturer was never heard from again, Halifax County has realistic hopes of attracting the diverse, high-paying industries it was looking for before the hog stuff hit the fan. Best of all, Archer said, the people of Halifax County trust their government to do the right thing. Of course, Archer had been invited to tell his story to the Kansas County Commissioners Association Thursday in Salina because Kansas is the next target of the large-scale hog operation craze. Something else the commissioners and their guests talked about was the fact that the Kansas Department of Health and Environment has not earned the trust of the people of this state when it ;•,SEN. SAM BROWNBACK: 141 Hart Senate Office Building, :{j,. Washington, D.C. 20510; Phone; (302) 224-6521; Fax: (202) 228-1265; E-mail: sam_brownback@ brownback.senate.gov * SENiPAlROBERTS:^02 Hart Senate Office Building, "-' Washington, D.C. 20510; Phone: (202) 224-4774; Fax: (202) £ f 224-3514; E-mail: paLroberts@roberts.senate.gov , , YhjBP. JERRY MORAN: 1217 Longworth House Office Building, £." ''Washington, D,C. 20515; Phone: (202) 225-2715; t ii Fax: (202) 225t5124; E-mail: jerry.moran@mail.house.gov -•PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., »•" Washington, D.C. 20500; Phone: (202) 456-1414; °f Fax: (202) 456-2883; E-mail: president@whitehouse.gov Tnis weekend, enjoy Toeing alone together, j^t Hyatt Regency in Wichita, we've created the perfect setting for a romantic weekend getaway. Whether you're planning a night in Old Town, or just a little quiet time together, our special touches will make your stay unforgettable. Includes use of health club facilities, self parking in covered garage and a "Keys to Wichita Entertainment"pack. For reservations, call your Travel Planner or Hyatt at 1-800-233-1234. Per room/Per flight Includes double occupancy room, and breakfast buffet for two, REGENCY Feel the Hyatt Touch'- 400 West Waterman Street, Wichita, KS 67202 • (316) 293-1234 •Available Friday and Saturday, Memorial Day through Labor Pay Weekend. Certain weekend! are not available. Tax not Included In price comes to its ability to inspect and regulate these potentially disastrous transplants. Promises to regulate hog operations fall on doubting ears when people have that little faith in those who will enforce the rules. John Keller, a professor at Kansas State University who trains urban planners and inspectors, said it is hard to attract good people to be inspectors because it so often seems that the powers that be, the powers that write the regulations, don't really want them enforced, unless it is done in a way to punish a political rival. If Kansas is to be a place where decent people want to live, that must change. Whether there are huge hog farms in Kansas is a market decision, not a political one. But there are still political steps to be taken. The message from government may be difficult to carry out, but it is easy to state. Hog farms are welcome in Kansas. But pollute our precious water supply, and we will fine you until your ears bleed. , Any questions? • George B. Pyle is the editorial page editor of the Salina Journal, P.O. Box 740, Salina, KS 67402, or e-mail gpyle@saljournal.com. 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