When factory farms move into communities, quality of life can change. Common complaints from nearby residents include noxious odors, more flies, noise, and traffic, lower property values, and illegal dumping of animal waste into streams and lakes. The widespread and increasing human consumption of meat, and the subsidized nature of industrial farming, makes it certain that more and more factory farms will be built. Many communities oppose the construction of new factory farms because of the above named problems. Informed and active citizens can apply pressure that results in factory farms being constructed and operated in a more community-friendly manner, or not at all.
In order for a new or expanding factory farm to be built in Illinois, the owner must get permission from the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA). Whether the IDOA approves a project is dependent on whether the factory farm will be in compliance with the Livestock Management Facilities Act. Factory farms must also comply with the livestock regulations in the Illinois Environmental Protection Act.
IDOA does not invite public comments on applications to build factory farms (known as a Notice of Intent to Construct). However, a public meeting may be held if a proposed factory farm will contain at least 1,000 animal units or store waste in a lagoon. The IDOA will notify the local County Board if such an application is received. The County Board has 30 days to ask the IDOA to hold a public information meeting.
The public information meeting may be the public’s only opportunity to ask questions and raise concerns. Once the meeting is held, the County Board will make a non-binding recommendation to the IDOA. The recommendation is based on whether the County Board feels the facility will meet the 8 siting criteria. Therefore, it is critical for residents to communicate their concerns with County Board members.
Residents can determine whether factory farm construction has been proposed in their community by visiting www.agr.state.il.us/Environment/LMFA/noitclist.php. When there is proposed construction, residents can petition their County Board to request a public information meeting.
Several grassroots organizations exist in Illinois as a result of factory farms moving into their communities. These organizations are an important resource for those who want to learn more about factory farm issues, regulatory policies, and advocacy strategies. If you are not alone in your opposition to a proposed factory farm, you will be more effective if you join forces with like-minded community members and form a grassroots organization. There are important steps that can be taken to help new organizations be successful.