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DNR: Producer expanded hog confinement without notifying state regulators


DNR: Producer expanded hog confinement without notifying state regulators

Jun 08, 2023 | 5:24 pm ET
By Jared Strong
DNR: Producer expanded hog confinement without notifying state regulators
Hogs in a livestock production facility. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

For two years, a hog confinement just northeast of Ankeny operated with up to seven times the number of animals than what its owner told the Iowa Department of Natural Resources was inside the facility, according to a recent departmental order.

Brad Moeckly admitted to the DNR in October 2021 that the rural Elkhart confinement had been operating with a total capacity of about 4,300 swine since June 2019, the order said.

That number of animals exceeded a regulatory threshold that required Moeckly to submit a plan to the DNR to detail how he would dispose of manure produced by the animals, which he didn’t do for at least two years.

Moeckly’s self-reporting of the violation was meant to gain him immunity from potential fines under state law, but the DNR determined that Moeckly wasn’t eligible for the protection because he had twice misled the department about how many animals the facility had in 2019.

Someone reported an alleged animal increase at the facility to the DNR in July 2019, the order said. A DNR officer contacted Moeckly about the allegation, and Moeckly said the confinement had about 600 swine.

That number of animals was below the threshold that would require a manure management plan.

In September 2019, someone reported a possible manure release from the confinement and that the facility was overpopulated. The officer again asked Moeckly about how many animals were inside, and Moeckly again said 600, according to DNR.

But the officer had no means to verify the true animal population because the DNR typically avoids invasive inspections out of biosecurity concerns — namely that an inspector could transmit a disease.

“We don’t physically go in and ever count animals,” said Dennis Thielen, the DNR senior environmental specialist who investigated the situation. “Even when we do on-site inspections, everything’s from the exterior.”

As such, there was no proof that Moeckly had violated state rules until he submitted the Notice of Environmental Audit and Disclosure of Violations that detailed his failure to follow state rules.

The DNR sent Moeckly a notice of violation in February 2022, and the department recently fined him $1,000 as part of a negotiated agreement.

Moeckly could not be reached to comment for this article.