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Hog farm expansion draws ire

WORTHINGTON — The Nobles County Planning Commission granted preliminary approval for Son-D-Farms of Adrian to construct three new hog confinement barns this year, but not before taking public testimony from neighbors complaining about the smell.

Doug Bullerman sought approval to put one new barn in the south half of the northeast quarter of Section 20, Olney Township, and two barns on a site in the south half of the northwest quarter of Section 11, Grand Prairie Township. The Grand Prairie site has existing hog barns, and all three of the new barns would receive isowean pigs and grow them to finishing weights.

Bullerman said these sites were selected for expansion because they are running short on building space and need to get more animal manure to farms in the vicinity of the proposed barns. Son-D-Farms is one of the largest pork producers in Nobles County.

The proposal for the Olney Township site is to construct a 2,400-head barn with a concrete storage pit below to contain up to 12 months of manure, while the Grand Prairie Township site is proposed to have two 1,200-head barns added.

The Planning Commission addressed each request separately, with the Olney Township site drawing criticism from neighbors.

Kim Kimmel of Magnolia said he measured the distance from the proposed barn to his home, and said there was less than 1,200 feet of separation.

“That’s less than a quarter of a mile,” Kimmel told the commission, adding that the city of Adrian’s wellhead protected district is also near where the Bullermans apply their hog manure to farmland.

“We’ve got a problem,” Kimmel said, adding that with the spread of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) and the potential for virus-laden manure to be injected into the land, he’s concerned about the future of Adrian’s water supply.

Meanwhile, David Dorn asked if Bullerman couldn’t locate the barn to another area of his property so it wouldn’t be so close to neighbors.

“I’m not as concerned about that barn as how well I know you,” Dorn said. “I’m worried about the next two barns.

“I’m at the age where I’d like to go out and sit on the porch, and I’m going to have to go in the house and shut the windows,” he added.

Dorn’s home is within half a mile of the proposed barn. He suggested Bullerman consider moving the barn farther south and west on the property.

“Being you have access to property in that two-mile range … it would give us a break in that whole area,” Dorn said. “I would hate to live with it if I don’t have to.”

Bullerman said Dorn was expecting odor to be an issue, and he said it wouldn’t be.

“We have four barns right by town and that seems to be working out all right,” Bullerman said. “These hog barns have deep pits and fans running all the time. The majority of the time, there are no odor issues coming with them.”

Cheryl Heitkamp of Adrian said there is a stink coming from the hog barns Bullerman already has in place. She spoke specifically about one location with six barns that have a manure slurry.

Bullerman didn’t deny the odor problems on that particular site, but said the new barns with the storage pits below don’t create such smells.

“We get blamed for a lot of stuff,” Bullerman said. “This barn I ain’t worried about.”

The two barns Son-D-Farms plans to construct in Grand Prairie Township are smaller, but similar in design. They will be added to a site that already includes a pair of 10-year-old barns.

While there were no neighbors present to provide comment on the request, Heitkamp wondered aloud how many more hog buildings Son-D-Farms has to have.

“It’s just a waste of time when we come here because you people don’t listen to any comments or criticisms — so forget it,” Heitkamp said as she stood up to leave the meeting.

Kimmel followed her out, making comments about a federal lawsuit.

With the gallery nearly cleared, Planning Commission member Steve Brake said that with pit additives and isowean pigs, manure odors aren’t as much of an issue.

“Odor is one of our lesser concerns these days,” Brake said. “I think Doug is running his operation the way it should be run.”

The commission approved the request for both conditional use permits, with conditions that there be dead animal containment on site, the good neighbor policy be adhered to and that manure be incorporated. With the Grand Prairie site, an additional condition included Bullerman having all necessary Minnesota Pollution Control Agency permits in place. 

With the approval, the requests will advance to the Nobles County Board of Commissioners for consideration and final action. The matter will be on its May 6 agenda.

The Planning Commission also approved other requests Wednesday night, all of which will now advance to the county board for final action May 6. Those requests include:

* Joey Bullerman, Adrian, sought a conditional use permit to construct a deep-pitted cattle barn at 19184 Cory Ave. The permit is required because Bullerman will exceed 1,000 animal units on the farm with this latest construction project.

The barn will house approximately 400 head of cattle and be identical to an existing barn on the site. There was no public comment presented on Bullerman’s plans, which received unanimous approval from the commission. Conditions set on the permit include that the good neighbor policy be adhered to and liquid manure be incorporated.

* Brad and Dean Luettel of Adrian asked for a conditional use permit to construct a new free-stall dairy barn in the southwest quarter of Section 22, Westside Township. The barn, which replaces an existing barn, will include two open concrete manure pits and will be equipped with robotic milkers. The Luettels are working with the Natural Resources Conservation Service on the design of the pits, as well as a manure management plan.

The permit request was approved by the commission unanimously with conditions that the Luettels obtain all of their required permits, that liquid manure be incorporated and that the good neighbor policy be adhered to.

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Bunjter may be reached at 376-7330.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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