Hog farm dispute before ND Supreme Court

Jun 23, 2017

A landowner group believes the state Health Department did not have the authority to grant a proposed hog farm near Buffalo an animal feeding operations permit.

Rolling Green Family Farms was granted an "animal feeding operation permit." Concerned Citizens of Buffalo argues Rolling Green needs a different – and more strict – permit. The group also said the Health Department should have re-opened a public comment period after Rolling Green amended the application.

Originally, the farm was to have 9000 hogs. But in its amendment, Rolling Green says the farm may produce 200,000 piglets a year. It argues piglets are not counted as “whole animal units,” and the public comment period did not have to be re-opened.

A district court sided with Rolling Green – and the landowner group appealed to the state Supreme Court.

"The reason this is important is the setback," attorney Derrick Braaten told the Court. "We're looking at a number of our clients living within a mile and a half and outside of a mile. So this setback is very significant to them, and what they're going to be living with in the future if this facility is built."

Braaten said there is a lot of opposition to the hog farm. And he was questioned about that by Chief Justice Gerald Vandewalle.

"Whatever they do is going to be met with resistance. Is that realistic?" asked Vandewalle.

"It's realistic to say there is a large group of people in this community that don't want this facility next to them," answered Braaten.

"I understand," Vandewalle replied. "Not in my back yard."

"Right," said Braaten. "And the other meaning of 'Not In My Back Yard' is 'Next It Might Be You.'"

The Health Department and Rolling Green argue the Health Department made the right call in issuing the permit.

Rolling Green attorney Rob Forward told the court the Health Department was not required to reopen the public comment period.

"They (the opponents) don't have a right to public comment," Forward said. "Nowhere in the statute, nowhere in the regulations does it say they have the right. In fact, it's quite clear -- the regs show the Health Department has the discretion on whether it should extend public comment."

The high court has taken the case under advisement.

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