I am a strong supporter of agriculture, having grown up behind a family dairy farm, worked for an ag equipment manufacturer and continue to work to support agriculture in Delta County. I want to emphasize that what I am saying here is my own view and in no way is connected to or the opinion of any organizations with whom I work or of which I am a member.
I am writing to state some facts and address some mistruths, whether the result of misunderstandings or intentional, surrounding the recent District Court rulings involving the Specific Development permits for the Hotchkiss egg laying factory farm operating on Powell Mesa and the yet to be built one on Redlands Mesa.
Fact: The rulings do not involve the right to farm as has been stated by the county. The court in at least two of its rulings, and most recently in the Sept. 5, 2013, order and judgment clearly stated, "The statutory right to farm does not directly apply to the issue before the court. Similarly, the Delta County resolution on the right to farm does not apply."
Fact: The rulings have no effect on existing ranching or other agricultural activities in the county. The court in its Sept. 27, 2013, order on defendants' motion for stay pending appeal again clearly stated, "...this order has no application to existing agricultural uses."
Fact: The Delta County Regulation for Specific Development ("RSD") in at least four locations expressly exempts ranchers and livestock operations from its provisions and is not affected by the court's rulings.
Fact: The court's ruling is based on the health impacts to neighbors and the existing Master Plan language which is mandatory and states, "The right to develop and improve private property does not constitute the right to physically damage or adversely impact the property ... or neighboring landowners." The health impacts to neighbors are well documented. The county's air monitoring report (August 2012) stated, "The concentration of fungal and bacterial particles generated from the facility is in the tens of millions per second." It is not surprising then that downwind neighbors who have lived on Powell Mesa for 25 or so years and a family farm that has operated there for 49 years have suffered negative health and crop impacts since the egg laying farm factory was started up a mere 29 months ago. The Hostetler family has lived on Powell Mesa for significantly fewer years than these neighbors and was expressly warned in March 2012 by the court in plain and easily understood language that it proceeded at its own risk if it proceeded with the facility before the issue was resolved. The phrase in the law that applies to the construction and operation of the factory farm here is assumption of the risk. That risk was also assumed by all who entered into contractual agreements with the operators of the facility.
Lastly, this is a nation of laws and the plaintiffs in the action exercised their right as citizens to protect their property rights under the existing laws and regulations. The county's regulations protect private property rights, as well as agricultural operations. Attempts to change those laws and regulations are a topic for another time. However, what is particularly disturbing is that one of those neighbors who exercised that right has now received three reports from individuals who have overheard threats of that person "being taken out" and having a target on the person's back, ostensibly by individuals who are being motivated by mistruths and false statements. Hopefully the above will cause individuals to look at the recent rulings differently and understand the facts and protections that exist under the current regulations for private citizens and agricultural operations without the need to resort to unwise threats and unneeded actions.