Controversial Bentley Hog Farm
The Lacombe Globe
December 23, 2003
A lengthy story of community controversy in and around
Bentley will soon begin a new chapter.
Bacon Acres is being sold.
The 18,000-hog operation, which is just south of
Bentley, has been the focus of many town residents’ complaints for several
years. They’ve long blamed
that intensive livestock operation (ILO) for being the cause of frequent bad
odours in the community.
Now Dave Allan, who owns the operation, is selling the
farm, which has been in the family for more than three decades, citing
“financial troubles in the industry”.
It could have something to do with the fact that he’s
put about $1 million into numerous measures to curb various complaints in
the past four years.
Negotiations for a lease/purchase agreement are
currently in progress with an area farmer, but Allan said even if it goes
through it won’t cover the costs he’s put out during the last few years.
He’ll know if the sale is official in January.
Even if it doesn’t happen, he and his family are “probably going
to be exiting anyway”.
It’s been a very emotional, trying time for our whole
family,” he said. “In a lot
of ways, yes, we are very sad to go”.
Numerous odour complaints have been made to the Town of
Bentley and other organizations regarding Bacon Acres for a few years.
According to Bentley’s town manager, John Vogelaar,
the odour has put a stranglehold on development within the community.
One complete new subdivision, he said, has been halted because of it.
“They are holding the town back,” he said.
“The smell is keeping it back.”
But the Town of Bentley is powerless to change the
“The Town of Bentley has no hammer to do anything to
Bacon Acres, because Bacon Acres is in (Lacombe) County,” said Vogelaar.
A report released a couple of weeks ago by the
Farmer’s Advocate of Alberta, part of Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural
Development, praised Bacon Acres as “an excellent operation, exceeding the
generally accepted agricultural practices for the industry”.
It’s based on a tour of the site that was done in
October by a peer review committee. The
tour included two people from the Bentley Community Committee who had been
asked last February by the Farmer’s Advocate to gather information backing
up the complaints.
Norm Lowe, one of those members, said his group had
come up with a report three inches thick.
The group was notified just a few days before the tour
that they’d be expected to give a formal report at a hearing shortly to
Lowe said his group, unlike Bacon Acres or the
Farmer’s Advocate, didn’t have a lawyer, but managed to do it anyway as
best as they could.
When he saw the most recent report, Lowe was outraged.
“They didn’t address the issues that we had raised
as outlined by the residents of Bentley,” he said.
Since he was on the tour, he knows what the committee
saw, what points were made and what issues were brought up.
He said the report didn’t accurately reflect that.
He cited various sections of the report as being
irrelevant, unfounded and downright incorrect.
“The whole process, unfortunately, turned out to be a
sham,” he said.
But it’s the report that will be submitted to Shirley
McClellan, Alberta’s minister of agriculture, food and rural development,
and Lowe said what she’ll read is deliberately biased.
“People aren’t mad at Dave Allan; they’re mad at
the government,” said Lowe. “Dave
Allan is not to blame for this issue.”
In fact, he said, Allan and his family are excellent,
upstanding citizens. The
“serious mistake,” he said, is that the government allowed such a
massive ILO to develop so near an urban community.
Also, he said, the issue is no longer the simple
annoyance of odours, but the possibility of poisonous gases associated with
them, as reported in a study he said was done by Parkland Airshed Management
Lowe claimed some disturbing PAMZ findings were
completely ignored in the recent Farmer’s Advocate report.
Allan maintained that the appropriate procedures were
followed and that utilizing outside unbiased agencies was the only way to
resolve the problem.
“We believe it was done in fair judgement,” he
Lower doesn’t plan to let the issue die, however.
He said he and the Bentley community Committee may critique the
entire process and send it directly to Premier Ralph Klein in the hope that
he’ll take another look at the procedure.
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