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Residents seek to block hog farm planned near Buffalo, ND

BUFFALO, N.D.--Residents who oppose the Rolling Green Family Farms are heading to court to block the planned $15 million factory farm that can house up to 9,000 hogs and piglets.

Jackrabbit Family Farm is located about 10 miles south of Mount Vernon. It houses approximately 5,000 hogs and is managed by Pipestone System. (Matt Gade/Republic)
Jackrabbit Family Farm is located about 10 miles south of Mount Vernon. It houses approximately 5,000 hogs and is managed by Pipestone System. (Matt Gade/Republic)

BUFFALO, N.D.-Residents who oppose the Rolling Green Family Farms are heading to court to block the planned $15 million factory farm that can house up to 9,000 hogs and piglets.

Liane Stout, one of the residents and a member of Concerned Citizens of Buffalo, about 40 miles west of Fargo, said they will file a lawsuit in Burleigh County District Court in Bismarck by Friday, Sept. 2, seeking to block the hog farm. The suit seeks to overturn a water quality permit issued by state health officials.

"The North Dakota Department of Health is really ignoring the people they're supposed to be protecting," she said. "We're standing up. We're going to keep the fight up against this hog facility. It's flawed in many ways."

Opponents submitted more than 2,500 pages of comments outlining their concerns, including those involving health, the environment and diminishment of property values.

"We didn't really believe the system is working," Stout said. "They have put economic interests ahead of the health of our community."

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Derrick Braaten, a Bismarck lawyer who represents Concerned Citizens of Buffalo, said the lawsuit might seek a stay, but ultimately seeks to overturn the permit for the factory hog farm.

"There are concerns with water quality, with the actual design of the facility," he said.

The citizens group will also argue that state health officials' process for reviewing and approving the permit was flawed.

"We don't think it was due process," Braaten said. The residents have discovered a large number of email exchanges between state officials and those involved in Rolling Green Family Farms, which is spearheaded by Pipestone Holdings, a large veterinary and livestock consulting firm in Pipestone, Minn.

Opponents had no opportunity to review or respond to the issues involved in the emails before the permit was granted, Braaten said.

Karl Rockeman, director of the division of water quality for the North Dakota Department of Health, defended the state's actions in granting the permit on Aug. 4.

"The department feels that the permit was issued in compliance with applicable law," he said, adding that the state will review and respond in court to the allegations when the lawsuit is filed.

If built, Rolling Hills Family Farm will be the first large swine farm in the area. The farm, organized as a limited liability partnership, has between 14 to 16 farmer-owners, most residents of Minnesota or Iowa, Pipestone representatives said.

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The factory hog farm was proposed near Buffalo after a similar proposal near Milbank, S.D., was rejected by county officials because of well-water concerns.

Patrick Springer first joined The Forum in 1985. He covers a wide range of subjects including health care, energy and population trends. Email address: pspringer@forumcomm.com
Phone: 701-367-5294
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