Farmers Build Neighbor Support for Hog Barn Expansion

03-05-2015 in Hogs

Reprinted with permission of the Iowa Farm Bureau Spokesman

By Bethany Baratta

Eric and Emily Crosman have always placed special emphasis on caring for their livestock and the environment. So when it came time for the Crosmans to face the Boone County Board of Supervisors during a public hearing, neighbors and friends were ready to speak up about the Crosmans’ efforts.

Bret Pierce, a Boone County Farm Bureau member and farmer in Woodward, said the Crosmans set a good example.

“I would like to point out that Eric is one of the best examples of a livestock producer that we have in Boone County,” Pierce said. “He is following all of the steps and going above and beyond to care for his animals and also to care for his neighbors.”

He noted that the Crosmans notify neighbors before applying manure and find the best time to apply the nutrients on their field.

“He does it at the best time to get the most fertilizer value out of it for his cropping operation,” Pierce said.

Building for the Future

As a fifth-generation hog farmer, Crosman told the board of supervisors that he takes care of his animals and the soil, hoping to leave it in better shape for his two sons, Brock and Jakob, who are 8 and 4 years old.

He explained that he injects the manure instead of surface applying, which reduces odor. Using the nutrients from his hog barn has improved soil health, he said.

“We’ve had a good response; we’ve been using less N, P and K on our farms to grow healthier and better crops,” Crosman said. “We’re seeing earthworms in our soil, so our soil health has gone way up.”

He’s an excellent manager of both his hogs and crops, noted Kevin Westrum, a Boone County Farm Bureau member and farmer.

“(He’s) applied the manure in a very diligent way to his growing crops (that) does not increase the amount of runoff or anything from those acres,” Westrum said.

The Crosmans built their first 2,400-head hog barn next to their home in June 2012. Last week, they faced the Boone County Board of Supervisors, supporters and even those opposing the barn during a public hearing.

Completing Matrix

Since the new barn will double the number of hogs on the site, a master matrix scoring system was used to evaluate the site. The matrix is a system used to evaluate permit application and proposed locations for confinements, according to the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers (CSIF).

Farmers earn points by choosing a site and implementing practices to reduce impacts on air, water and the community, according to Brian Ritland, director of agronomic services for Pinnacle.

Ritland helped the Crosmans complete the master matrix application, which was then reviewed by a committee.

“The main thing you look at is community, air and water,” Ritland explained. Each piece of the matrix has a points potential. Of the possible 800 points, the Crosmans earned about 500. A farmer must score 400 points for the site to be considered, Ritland said.

“You have to meet and exceed the minimums,” Ritland said. “He did that in every case.”

Parts of the matrix don’t apply to every applicant, Crosman noted. It’s a standardized matrix that includes an evaluation for not only pig sites but also turkeys, cattle and other species.

Unanimous Decision

The Boone County Board of Supervisors were unanimous in their decision to accept the master matrix and the Crosmans’ plan to construct the new barn.

“I think agriculture in this county and in this state is an extremely important industry. It’s a driver. It’s why the state of Iowa during the latest deep recession really was buffeted from the serious effects a lot of these areas saw,” said Steve Duffy, a member of the Boone County Board of Supervisors. “So to ignore agriculture is a serious mistake. Not only an economic issue, but it’s also a feed-the-world issue.”

Pending the Iowa Department of Natural Resource’s approval, the Crosmans hope to have their hog barn built by mid-July.

“My oldest son Brock’s birthday is Aug. 2,” Crosman said. “He tells me this is his birthday present.”

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