Proposed Hog Farm Operators Withdraw Permit Application

starke-county-courthouseThe Hamlet area will not be home to an 8,000 head hog farm. JML Family Farm, LLC has withdrawn their permit application filed with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management on March 2nd seeking to establish two 4,400 head wean-to-finish hog barns near the intersection of County roads 400 North and 600 East.

That location is within a two-mile radius of Hamlet. However, at the time the Lawrence family sought the permit the town had not adopted the two-mile jurisdiction approved last fall by the Starke County Planning Commission. Todd Lawrence told the Starke County Commissioners last night he and his son, Josh, were told multiple times by officials in the plan commission office that they could proceed with the project before they submitted the application to IDEM.

Residents who live within half a mile of the proposed confined animal feeding operation, or CAFO, were notified by mail. Those letters prompted a public outcry, which Lawrence says led to an about-face by the plan commission. He told the commissioners his son, Josh, went back to the planning commission office, and officials there denied ever saying it was OK to proceed with the project.

Lawrence also spoke with Hamlet Clerk-Treasurer Kristina Pitts, who told him the zoning ordinance had never been presented to the town board for consideration. He says the planning commission was going to leave the jurisdiction radius up to each town. He says Knox had a two-mile buffer zone in place. North Judson officials were contacted by the county, but Hamlet was not, according to Lawrence.

The Hamlet Town Board has since drafted a letter in support of the two-mile buffer zone and submitted it to the Starke County Plan Commission and Commissioners. Lawrence says that action effectively killed the project.

“The only thing we can do is withdraw, because it’s a CAFO. There’s no recourse, and that’s the way it is.”

The Starke County Commissioners noted agriculture operators like JML Family Farm, LLC contribute significantly to the county’s economy through property tax payments and do not seek incentives like tax abatements in order to build or expand their operations. Lawrence says plans were to use the manure to fertilize their other farm ground. He adds that was common practice throughout the county until rising commodities prices in the 1970s effectively killed the local livestock industry.