July 1, 2017 – A Tale of Two Counties

How do you say no to something called GnomeDependence Day?

It happens on Sunday, July 2 and, yes, I’m going to be there. And I think I might even be forced to wear one of those pointy red hats. Oh, well, it’s for a good cause–the Peterson Garden Project.

There will be, as they say, fun for all ages, food, music, prizes, and (of course!) gnomes! Everyone is welcome. Highlights of the afternoon’s activities include:

  • Food from Smack Dab (a Chicago, and PGP, favorite!)
  • Music from Tim Williams
  • Face painting
  • Veggie costume parade for kids and pets
  • 50/50 raffle
  • Prizes for gnome decorating
  • And so much more…including MC Mike Nowak.

Here are the details:

5:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Hello!Howard Community Space
1593 Howard Street
Chicago, IL 60626
…and it’s FREE!

Funds raised at this event will go towards supporting the free community programming in their Pop-Up Victory Gardens and their Community Cooking School.

PGP’s LaManda Joy stops by this morning to preview what will be a very fun event.


It was a short five months ago when Peggy Malecki and I reported on what seemed like a win for anti-factory farm forces in the State of Illinois. At that time, we welcomed Fulton County farmer Craig Porter, who is is also on the Isabel Township Board of Trustees to The Mike Nowak Show. He was joined by Karen Hudson of Illinois Citizens for Clean Air & Water (ICCAW) and the Socially Responsible Agricultural Project (SRAP).

The occasion was the decision by an outfit called, benignly enough, Memory Lane Acres, to abandon an effort to build a factory farm in Fulton County, following an outcry from citizens in the area.

As the Chicago Tribune reported,

The hog producer, an affiliate of Professional Swine Management, formally withdrew its notice of intent to construct from the Illinois Department of Agriculture last week after sustained protests from neighbors who feared that waste from the proposed 20,000-hog confinement could foul rivers and creeks, and that the operation might ruin roads and jeopardize their rural way of life.

“It’s a great thing,” said Fulton County crop and livestock farmer Matt Howe, referring to the decision to cancel plans for the hog confinement. “Twenty-thousand animals is a monstrosity. I don’t count it as agriculture.”

That notice, by the way, followed a local brouhaha where Fulton County Farm Bureau called a meeting to discuss that very CAFO. However, Farm Bureau was very selective–some folks might say sneaky–about who they invited to the gathering. Then a local TV station got wind of the meeting, tried to cover it, got turned away, and suddenly the meeting was a big deal and everybody knew about it.

Not only that, but a local Farm Bureau board member resigned in protest over the secrecy of the proceedings. After that Memory Lane Acres withdrew its application.

Fade to black, happy end, right?

If you think so, you’re not particularly familiar with the culture of Big Ag, in particular with the people who think that cramming ten thousand hogs together in what is called a Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) is good husbandry.

Within days of what seemed to be a victory, Memory Lane Acres, LLC had filed a Notice of Intent to Construct with the Illinois Department of Agriculture. And, give IDOA’s record of pretty much always siding with factory farms, this story is far from over.

In fact, Craig Porter returns to the show this morning to talk about the continuing battle over this CAFO in Fulton County. But right next door, in Schuyler County, guess what? Yup:

Growing up in Rushville, Carrie Johnson, the granddaughter of Schuyler County pig and dairy farmers, learned early-on the importance of agriculture to the local economy. Now an adult living and working in Rushville, Johnson says she supports the growth of local business and agriculture.

But Johnson has deep concerns about what could become Schuyler County’s latest hog confined animal feeding operation, Olive Branch Acres, which is proposed for a site near the village of Littleton and about eight miles from Rushville.  She and other opponents, saying CAFOs can hurt property values and contribute to pollution and other environmental problems, question the impact of the proposed facility on 40 houses and cabins within two miles of the proposed facility, as well as roads and nearby ponds.

And those aren’t the only two counties facing the prospect of more factory farms:

The Illinois Department of Agriculture is currently reviewing 33 CAFO construction applications — 21 of which are for swine, according to a department spokeswoman. Since passage of the Illinois Livestock Facilities Management Act in 1996 through December 31, 2016, the state agriculture department received 2,167 applications for swine CAFOs. Of those, 1,724 projects were approved, the spokeswoman says.

If you ask people like Karen Hudson, the percentage is actually higher than that. Part of the problem is that even the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t know–or doesn’t want to know–how many CAFOs are in the state. So ICCAW is working with State Senator David Koehler to pass SB1272 and SB1273, which would provide some accountability and transparency in how CAFOs manage their waste.

Unfortunately, as Hudson recently wrote in in op-ed piece, a roadblock might be coming from–of all places–the IEPA itself:

…IEPA Director Alec Messina vows to “collaborate” with farm bureau and industry groups and stresses that no changes to the law are needed. He philosophizes that it would be more effective to “educate the livestock producers being regulated.”

While this may sound like a noble position, we question who and how the director intends to “educate.” Our research shows IEPA’s “comprehensive” inventory of the location and numbers of CAFOs has an embarrassing accuracy of 44 percent. How could IEPA educate producers when they don’t even know how many CAFOs exist?

Wait. Let me see if I have this right. The agency that oversees the environmental laws is taking a stand against tougher laws?

SB1272 and SB1273 would only partially address the problem of the The Illinois Livestock Management Facilities Act (LMFA). As I wrote in February of this year,

Ironically, the opening sentence on that site states that

The Livestock Management Facilities Act protects your right as a citizen to a safe, clean environment as well as the right of livestock farmers to earn a living. It concludes animal agriculture is important to Illinois’ economy and should be maintained, but farmers have a responsibility to be good neighbors. (Bold added.)

So it’s not surprising that Illinois farmers and members of the ICCAW and representatives of SRAP held a press conference on January 24 to announce that they wish to amend LMFA, which they describe as “a controversial and failed pro-agribusiness law.” Among the reasons for their action:

  • The LMFA stripped away the rights of adversely impacted citizens to challenge poor facility siting decisions, as well as local county government rights of self-determination and control over livestock industry development projects
  • Widespread problems also exist with the state’s regulation of pollution from existing operations due to regulatory failures by the IEPA.
  • Despite IEPA being the subject of a citizen petition for withdrawal of the state’s authority to administer the Clean Water Act by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for nearly a decade, livestock facilities are still the leading cause of Illinois fish kills in Illinois

Five months later, here we are again. Peggy and I are pleased to have Karen Hudson and Craig Porter back on The Mike Nowak Show, and they are joined by Carrie Johnson from Schuyler County.

3 thoughts on “July 1, 2017 – A Tale of Two Counties

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  • 07/01/2017 at 6:35 pm

    Thanks for further explaining your situation. There is so little time during a live radio broadcast to completely cover an issue, and yours is particularly complex. Peggy and I would love to have you back on the show to do a follow up. Please keep us posted as developments occur.


  • 07/01/2017 at 12:17 pm

    I would love to talk in more detail about our particular site in Littleton, IL and how it does not meet all the criteria listed for the LMFA. When I mentioned that it was remote, I was referring to the almost 5 miles of rural roads. The township does not have money to fix these roads and they will not get near enough money from the tax dollars they will receive to maintain these roads after the damage that will be done by the extra heavy traffic.

    Schuyler County has been known for the past 20 years for our recreational & hunting properties. Properties have be sold as such and it has helped to drive up the economy of our area. We will always be an agricultural community, as many are in Illinois but certain areas within Schuyler are sold specifically as recreational and that is how this particular local community has been developed. The immediate area around this proposed site has been sold and developed as recreational ground and that has been proven. These people have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in this area.

    So, people who have lived there for generations and have family farms/residences as well as people who are newer to the area, have contributed to the local economy, raised families there, invested money and tax dollars in the area, have no say in the process. Their civil rights and rights as land owners are stripped from them. Some had plans to build homes, have livestock of their own, etc and those rights are taken away from them.

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