Opposing factions spar over Iowa Select sow farm proposal

Calhoun County Supervisors Scott Jacobs, far right, Mike Cooper, center, and Carl Legore, at left, address concerns and questions about a proposed sow farm between Knierim and Somers during a public hearing on Tuesday morning. The board ultimately voted to delay action until Friday, February 2, at 7:00 p.m. (Robert Maharry/Mid-America Publishing photo)

Supporters and detractors of a large 2,999 unit sow gestation and farrowing farm between Knierim and Somers in Greenfield Township traded barbs during an hour-long hearing at the Calhoun County Courthouse last Tuesday morning, and much of the criticism was directed at Iowa Falls-based Iowa Select Farms—the state’s largest pork producer.

“I grew up on a farm. I’m a farmer at heart. I am not against farmers. I am not against hogs. I’m against big corporations coming in and changing how we farm in our county,” said Rose Hosek, who resides near the proposed site. “I moved here because I wanted to help a small town live, and I left it to fate…I have invested my entire life in this county, so I don’t want to have to pick up and move because a large corporate entity came in and ruined what I found to be so perfect when I moved here.”

The Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO), under the ownership of Calhoun Farms, LLC, would create 18 new jobs (about $700,000 in annual payroll) and cost $15.5 million to build. Darrell Hunt—a Calhoun County native and current Iowa Select employee— added that it would increase the demand for corn and soybeans used to feed the hogs (provided by NEW Cooperative of Pomeroy) while spurring growth around the area, generating about $4.7 million in economic activity.

New Modern Concepts of Iowa Falls, Iowa Select’s sister company, will construct the site if it receives approval, and that fact drew Mrs. Hosek’s ire as local contractors would not even be considered for the job. Hunt did claim, however, that subcontractors from around central Iowa could be hired, and he said the company will likely internally promote an experienced employee to manage the facility and search for area candidates to fill the other positions.

Ownership of the site raised several questions after Jim Hosek, Mrs. Hosek’s husband, noted that an online search for Calhoun Farms, which was established in October of 2017, led to a Des Moines lawyer and lobbyist named Michael Blaser— who served as the general counsel for Iowa Select from 1995 to 2000 and is considered an expert on “corporate farming laws in Iowa and other Midwest states,” according to his biography on the BrownWinick firm’s website.

Read the full story in the January 31 edition.