Proposed Triumph plant debated by residents

by Meat&Poultry Staff
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EAST MOLINE, Ill. – A proposed Triumph Foods hog slaughterhouse in East Moline, Ill., that would process 16,000 hogs a day, continues to whip up the sentiments of proponents and opponents of the project, according to a report in the Chicago Tribune.

Supporters say it will bring jobs and economic revitalization to the Iowa border community located on the Mississippi River. The mayor said it will create new 2,500 jobs in an area suffering from high unemployment – it has doubled in five years. Opponents fear environmental damage, bad odors and lost property values. Critics complain the plant would encourage an influx of large hog farms that would contribute to environmental problems and wipe out smaller operations.

Although many issues are still pending, a Triumph spokesman told news organizations construction could begin in spring 2011. The emotions stirred by this project reflect an intensifying national debate over how food animals should be housed, raised, slaughtered and processed.

The American Meat Institute (A.M.I.) said approximately 90% of all hogs are slaughtered in plants that each process more than 1 million animals a year. Eighty-one percent of all U.S. hogs are raised in facilities that house more than 2,000. Over the last 30 years, family farms and small meat processors have disappeared as the biggest companies bought up small family farms and consolidated operations.

Triumph officials said the company already has contracts with hog suppliers for animals that will be raised in confinement specifically for that plant. Such integrated business arrangements result is less expensive meat for consumers. But environmentalists, family farmers, food activists and some scientists argue that benefit comes at a high cost to the environment, America's health, small farms and taxpayers.

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are conducting public meetings to discuss antitrust issues raised by these collaborations. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has proposed new rules aimed at evening the playing field for independent farmers, but they are meeting resistance from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the National Pork Producers Association, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Around 2005, Triumph reportedly asked for millions in local tax breaks that required unanimous approval by five local city councils – one council refused. Several months later, then- Gov. Rod Blagojevich okayed a state-funded economic package worth about $16 million. Triumph had bought 116 acres in East Moline on which to build by 2007.

After being put on hold due to the sputtering economy, in December 2009 the plan resurfaced with more powerful political friends and new sources of financial support.

Illinois Democrats Sen. Dick Durbin and Rep. Phil Hare said they would endorse millions in loan guarantees from the U.S.D.A. to get the plant built. East Moline also applied for a $4.8 million in economic development assistance from the U.S. Department of Commerce for water and sewer construction near the plant site.

Opponents warn the plant could attract undocumented workers. Others complained about storing hog waste in giant lagoons, and others fear there could be health problems related to bacteria and gases generated by Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations near their homes.
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