Kingdom City residents to seek legal advice in Eichelberger farm dispute

Tuesday, June 17, 2014 | 6:55 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — A group of Kingdom City residents will seek legal advice to try to prevent a proposed hog confinement farm from being built near their residences, according to a statement released Tuesday morning. 

Jeff JonesJeff Jones, a Callaway County farmer who has become the group's leader, said residents want to hire a lawyer to help them understand what can be done to stop the farm. The group doesn't want the dispute to tear the community apart.

"We all still want to be neighbors, to be a community," Jones said.

But residents cannot let Eichelberger Farms Inc. build, he said.

"I am 110 percent against this," Jones said. 

Jones said Dave Eichelberger, president of the Iowa-based company, told him  during a phone conversation Monday that the company will proceed with its plans despite the opposition. Residents met Monday night to discuss the statement and decided to "organize and stand up against the farm," Jones said. 

Eichelberger did not respond to interview requests. 

According to the residents' statement, they had "no choice but to seek legal advice and explore all legal options available to protect our health, lifestyles and property rights." 

The Callaway County Commission doesn't have a legal mechanism to prevent the hog farm from happening, County Commissioner Gary Jungermann said, according to previous Missourian reporting. The county doesn't have planning and zoning laws, and that allows individual farmers to do what they want with their land.

"There is nothing the commission can do," he said.

Eichelberger Farms plans to buy 20 acres from Horstmeier Farms, located just south of Interstate 70, for two animal buildings and one gestation building. The farm would hold about 10,000 hogs.

Darren Horstmeier, owner of Horstmeier Farms, said Tuesday that he has not signed any final agreement with Eichelberger Farms.

Jones said residents will also ask the lawyer to look at an agreement Darren Horstmeier and his father, Gary Horstmeier, were considering 20 years ago with Cargill. Cargill wanted to construct 80 buildings for 50,000 hogs, but Gary Horstmeier turned down the offer because of community opposition, Darren Horstmeier said, according to previous Missourian reporting. Jones said residents want to see if they can use any information from that settlement to discuss the current one. 

Jones said he wanted to send the statement to Eichelberger, but the company would not give out the president's contact information.

The statement reads: 

It was our hope that by holding a community meeting regarding the planned CAFO in Callaway County there would be further reflection and discernment by the Iowa Corporation of Eichelberger Farms before proceeding. We have now been informed by David Eichelberger personally that they intend to proceed with their large hog confinement. Because of this, we have no choice but to seek legal advice and explore all legal options available to protect our health, lifestyles and property rights. We respect the rights of all landowners to do with their property as they see fit. However, when activities affect those beyond property lines now, and for future generations, it is important that good people stand up for what is right. We intend to provide further updates through social media such as facebook and will make the public aware as we implement them.

Supervising editor is Katherine Reed.

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