Only 1,200 people live in Kansas’ smallest county, Greeley, where using irrigation is no longer an option for many because the groundwater underneath the arid prairie is nearly exhausted due to decades of overuse.
Economic development was at a standstill, so residents voted five years ago to allow the nation’s second-largest hog-feeding operation to move in. A second feeding site was just approved by the state.
It was a significant tradeoff.
Kansas-based Seaboard Foods is now its top taxpayer and accounts for roughly 9 percent of Greeley County’s tax base.
But though the thousands of hogs require less water than it would take to irrigate crops, the company is pumping wells that had been idled for a decade. Environmentalists and some residents fear the remaining groundwater will be used up.