ANNAPOLIS – Two hog farmers in Frederick and Carroll counties face stiff opposition from environmentalists and local residents who don’t want odors and pollution in their back yards.
Rodney Harbaugh’s hog operation in Rocky Ridge has already felt the wrath of his neighbors and the Frederick County Commission, which voted to seek a ban on new intensive farming operations.
The odor from the hogs “is destroying us. I can’t go outside for a breath of air,” said Bonnie Dancy, one of Harbaugh’s nearest neighbors who has opposed his farm operation since she learned about it last summer.
Another neighbor agreed.
“If there are any smells or gases, I can’t go out my door, period, for any reason,” said Karen Kuhn, whose property abuts Harbaugh’s farm. “This is not farming…it’s an industry. A factory.”
Carroll County residents may have similar concerns about Roland Mann Jr.’s plans to raise about 1,800 hogs on his property near Westminster.
During a Carroll County Environmental Affairs Advisory Board meeting Wednesday, a county resident said property values have plummeted as a result of manure spills, odors and fly problems from chicken farms, and he fears the same will happen if hog farms crop up in their back yards.
“If there are problems down the road, where do people go in the county to get help?” said the sixth-generation Carroll County farmer, who refused to be identified. He said his property value has dropped 25 percent because of problems related to a nearby poultry farm. “We’re living a nightmare.”
Board Chairman Kevin E. Dayhoff said he will poll his committee to see if the issue warrants a special meeting. If not, he said he would put it on the April agenda.
Local resistance to large hog operations is nothing new in the state. In 1997, a farmer in Kent County abandoned plans to build a large hog farm after neighbors and residents strongly opposed him.
“I have nothing against anyone trying to make a living as long as he complies with the regulations,” said Daniel C. Poole, a 79-year-old hog farmer in Frederick County. “But it’s not good business to set up a big hog farm close to a developed area.”
Citing “reasonable grounds” to believe that Harbaugh “violated Maryland law regarding water pollution control,” The Maryland Department of the Environment recently ordered him to reduce the number of animals raised on his farm until he obtains a specific permit required of large-scale cattle, swine and sheep farmers.
Federal law requires farmers who run such large operations to apply for a permit designed to control nitrogen and phosphorus, nutrients in animal waste that have been blamed for polluting the Chesapeake Bay.
The order also prohibits Harbaugh from applying hog waste to his land as fertilizer until appropriate plans to do so have been approved by the environment department.
Harbaugh’s neighbor Dancy is pleased.
“This is an incredible step forward,” she said.
Mann’s farm doesn’t require the same permit because it’s not as big, although he has agreed to seek a nutrient management plan, said Quentin Banks, spokesman for the environment department.
But environmentalists and some farmers say threats to water and air quality are just part of a larger problem. They fear that the loss of the family farm will mean more development and urban sprawl.
“If farmers can’t survive on their farms, they will sell their land for housing,” said Eddie Boyer, a Frederick County dairy farmer. “People come out to Frederick County to see the scenery and that will be gone.”