Proposed Nuisance Legislation Raises Concerns For Residents Near Swine Farms

April 13, 2017 07:20 PM

Do you agree with the proposed legislation that would protect livestock operators from nuisance lawsuits? Or should someone have the right to sue a farm over things like odor and noise?  Let these lawmakers know your views!

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Proposed nuisance legislation has some Minnesota rural residents worried they could lose their voice when it comes to speaking out against large swine farms located nearby.

In Dodge County, the tension has been building between some residents and feedlot operators for years. 

Lowell Trom filed a lawsuit against Dodge County and Masching Swine Farms LLC in 2014 after an operation fit for 2,400 hogs was approved near his farm in Blooming Prairie.

Trom said it was the 11th in a three-mile radius, raising health and environmental concerns.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals is set to rule Monday on his challenge to the permit. Masching Swine Farms LLC declined 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS' request for an interview, but said it has done everything by the book.

"At first, I didn't think too much of it, but it just keeps on getting worse," Trom said.

Trom's daughter, Sonja Trom-Eayrs, said the stench from the pig facilities is just a fraction of her concerns.

"The air is a concern, the water is a concern," she said.

Five miles away in Hayfield, Dale Schmeling said lingering concerns turned into reality last week.

Olmsted County's water lab tested his well, revealing concerning levels of coliform colonies (100ml). Coliform is a bacteria often traced to sewage and bacteria.

Olmsted County Environmental Health Services recommends not drinking water with any presence of it.

"Anything below one-point-zero is safe," Schmeling said. " We had 15-point-zero." 

Schmeling, who is surrounded by multiple swine farms, accuses the neighboring landowner of over-applying pig waste to the field just 250 feet from his well.

He said he hasn't found a way to trace the spread of manure to the contamination of his well.

"I start to wonder if the hog people are right, that I should get the hell out of here," Schmeling said. "I'm sick of this crap."

The frustrations of those like Schmeling and Trom have only grown with recently proposed legislation that could stop them from raising a stink about the stench.

The law would expand nuisance liability protection to all livestock operations. Right now, those protections are limited to facilities with less than 1,000 animal units. That equates to anywhere from 2,000 to 3,500 hogs - depending on their weight.

The Minnesota Pork Producer's Association is backing the proposal. David Preisler, the executive director, said it would level the playing field.

"From our standpoint, there aren't limits for poultry farms, so we would really just ask for equal treatment and equal protection under the law," Preisler said.

Preisler added there's a growing need to protect the state's pork producers from being sued by animal rights groups. He also argues operators still have to meet standards to earn protection, and it's only applicable to farms two years after they open.

"One of the pieces of this legislation is that you only get protection if you are in complete compliance with all state, local and federal rules and regulations," Preisler said. "There's no free pass here."

Trom-Eayrs, who also practices law in Minneapolis, disagrees. She said the legislation would take away the little voice rural residents, like her father, have left.

"You don't have a say on the front end, and you're not going to have a say on the back end," Trom-Eayrs said.

The proposed nuisance liability protections were amended to the omnibus agriculture policy bill that passed the House last week.

The future of the law now lies with the Senate's version of the bill.


Tyler Berg

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