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Opinion: Centerville feedlot problems more than just roads

Updated: Apr 6

This is a letter that was sent to the to the Linn County Commission in the wake of controversy surrounding upkeep of roads leading to a feedlot operating east of Centerville. The author sent it to the Journal.

Since Brad’s Aust’s appearances are considered public, then I know you must read my letter at a public commissioner’s meeting. You have my permission to do so as any taxpayer in Linn County is entitled to know that their tax dollars help this business endeavor make money. I don’t receive any subsidy from Aust Land and Cattle and very few others in the county benefit financially from the feedlot.

If you believe I will be satisfied with a build-up of the problematic water run-off on 1350 Road and an offer to put down dust abatement in front of our driveways, you are grossly misguided. Don’t even think of having the procedure down in front of my driveway as there would be no benefit. Instead, I would prefer that money go to a $700 underbody car repair when excess gravel was put down and the many silage trucks pushed it to the center of the road. 

Aust Land and Cattle Company is an investor’s operation likely with a positive bottom line. Even if not, investors don’t mind losing money if it is in their best financial interests.

As follows, is a case for why this investor’s group or those who manage the feedlot for the investors should be responsible for paying a proportion of the gravel costs to maintain what Brad Aust wants us to believe are far improved roads over what they used to be before the feedlot. It has also been suggested, I believe by a commissioner, that the run-off on 1350 Road has always been a problem. I beg to differ, as I stated in an earlier letter, I have been a resident in this area going on 40 years and I don’t recall a problem at this location before the feedlot. Isn’t my testimony a little more valuable because I’ve lived here for a significant number of years compared to someone who drove through here sporadically?

I’ve asked for information as to the amount of money spent to date on gravel since the feedlot arrived. I do not have that information, but know it will be thousands of dollars. I pay for my own gravel and typically pay more than $200 for a small load. Please remember that the gravel put down is not just about the mile or so in front of the feedlot, but about the ingress and egress to all feedlot operations, including feeding cattle and all gravel roads leading out of Centerville and off County Road 1077.  May I remind you once again that you, me, and all Linn County taxpayers pay for the extra gravel needed so that Aust Land and Cattle Company and its investors make money.

I don’t get any dividend checks, do you unless it is in the form of campaign donations when running for the commissioner’s office?

Mr. Johnson (Commissioner Jim Johnson), I realize you want me to look as if I am criticizing all Linn County ranchers who run cattle or other farming operations. This is one reason I will not testify in person as you would attempt to make me look foolish with the many comments you make that do not have a rational basis. Like suggesting I would go after you if there was a stalled semi on the highway outside your feedlot. This would be a small inconvenience compared to the many larger inconveniences I face every day from the feedlot. 

Again, Mr. Johnson, please be more considerate when you make follow-up comments as it reveals your allegiance to some taxpayers but not others and/or your lack of understanding of the pros/cons of an issue. Please don’t get feedback from just the members of the “Good ‘Ole Boys” Club.” Get out, talk with the constituents that also have a voice and LISTEN. Please keep in mind commissioners approved a regulation about feedlots and the responsibilities of the feedlot owners/managers.

I am not criticizing the independent farmer or rancher who chooses to make their living off a God-given talent to provide food for America. There is a huge difference between the investor big feedlot business (Aust Land and Cattle) compared to someone like you and Mr. Hightower. I very much respect your work, the decisions you make and overall your devotion to making a hopefully satisfying livelihood. My Dad was a farmer and I got up every morning at 5 a.m., rain, snow or sun to help him feed the cattle. I was in 4-H for years showing a heifer.

I am not a city-slicker trying to create a controversy. I love Linn County and choose to make my home a desirable and peaceful place to live. I could choose to live anywhere, but this is where I want to be. I am physically ill when I hear about the controversy of keeping Linn County beautiful. I also love seeing cattle grazing on a hilltop or eating grain from feed troughs. 

Beauty was destroyed with the entrance of commercial feedlots into our way of life. 

Why then do we give taxpayer benefit to someone who has destroyed acres and acres of well-established prairie? I couldn’t afford the land the feedlot sits on. However, if a permit had been sought by Aust or others through the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, I would have been able to contact The Nature Conservancy of Kansas.

Mr. Aust and a commissioner lead us to believe the feedlot is doing everything legal. That should have happened nearly five years ago when neighbors could have given feedback. It has been managed illegally until KSDE intervened about two years ago when the damage to the prairie and roads was already done. Please don’t tell me or other taxpayers the Feedlot is meeting all legal requirements. Perhaps now when KDHE required them to get a permit, but not when it counted.

Stand up like the men we elected to our Commission board and do what is right for all taxpayers in Linn County.  You must resolve the controversy this commission is experiencing. By the way, did some of you not learn how to play in the proverbial sandbox as a child where you learned respect, trust and compromise?? 


Rogene McPherson

Linn County Resident and Taxpayer

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