|By DOUG SCHMITZ
OGDEN, Iowa — A Pork Checkoff-funded study revealed that the locations of hog farms had no adverse affect on air quality at nearby rural residences, but actually showed an increased odor concentration inside these neighboring homes under various conditions.
“It shows that pork producers are doing the right thing,” said Craig Christensen, an Odgen, Iowa pork producer and past president of the National Pork Board in Clive, Iowa, about the importance of the Iowa State University (ISU) report on the U.S. pork industry.
“We know that hogs have an odor but we do everything we can to be good neighbors and stewards of the land,” he said. “This report shows that the size of the operation doesn’t matter. Pork producers take many steps to improve the environment and protect the surrounding area of our operations.”
Conducted between 2004 and 2005 by Steve Hoff, ISU professor of agriculture and biosystems engineering, the 16-month study measured concentrations of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide on farms and neighboring rural residences.
Hoff, the principal investigator and primary author of the study, submitted a proposal to conduct the study in response to a general request for proposals by the Pork Checkoff, which asked for “objective and sound-science-based research to address potential environmental issues associated with pork production.”
According to Hoff’s findings, ammonia levels may be related more to inhabitants’ lifestyles, including cigarette smoking and indoor pets, rather than how close a neighbor lives to a given hog facility, which now supports a 2003 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study.
The ISU study found that hydrogen sulfide concentrations measured on the farm didn’t show a similar increase in concentrations inside nearby residences – unless residences are located less than .4 mile, or 2,149 feet, from the hog facility and climate conditions are such that low wind speed and little solar radiation are present.
Even under these conditions, Hoff said hydrogen sulfide concentrations inside a residence located less than 300 feet from the largest hog operation were recorded as having levels more than 50 percent lower than the level currently set by the state of Iowa.
Christensen said ammonia concentrations inside residences tend to be more concentrated than ammonia levels in the air outside residential areas or at a hog farm’s property line.
“This is great news for us as pork producers and for our neighbors,” said Craig Christensen said. “This study follows another project, by the Department of Natural Resources, that shows that our way of life does not create odor that should require special considerations for schools, churches or other public gathering places, under Iowa law.”
Christensen, who owns a farrow-to-finish operation where he also grows corn and soybeans, said “as a resident, I am one of the most interested parties in this study.”
“I want to preserve the quality of life and health in Iowa,” he said. “The results verified that producers are running good operations and trying to improve the environment of all.”
Allan Stokes, environmental programs director for the checkoff, said none of the residents involved in the study attempted to challenge the study’s findings.
This farm news was published in the April 19, 2006 issue of Farm World.