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North Dakotans Raise Concerns About Two Large Farming Operations

Some North Dakotans worry that two proposed, large-scale hog farms could push out small, family-owned operations. (afnewsagency/Flickr)
Some North Dakotans worry that two proposed, large-scale hog farms could push out small, family-owned operations. (afnewsagency/Flickr)
October 6, 2017

BISMARCK, N.D. – North Dakotans have concerns about two large-scale hog farms in the state. Referred to as Confined Animal Feeding Operations or CAFOs, each facility is in different stages of permitting.

Last night, people gathered in Casselton to discuss an operation near Buffalo that would potentially hold nine-thousand hogs. Speakers from around the country talked about their experience with CAFOs, emphasizing their economic, environmental and health impacts.

Liane Stout, a member of the Concerned Citizens of Buffalo, thinks they'll hurt the state's legacy of small, family-owned farms.

"That's who we are here in North Dakota," she says. "Family farms, that's our heritage, and we must maintain that in order to preserve the state of North Dakota as we know it."

In August, the North Dakota Supreme Court approved the permit for the Buffalo farm. Stout says her group is working on a rehearing in the court. The farm operators say the CAFOs will provide economic benefits to the region.

The other operation is near Devil's Lake, about 100 miles west of Grand Forks, with about 2,700 animals. Locals are concerned about the large amount of waste that will be held on the farm.

Janelle Engstrom is founder of Lake Region Concerned Citizens, which held a meeting on this CAFO on Wednesday. She says there's a good chance manure from the farm will get into the lake.

"Many of the manure application sites border Devil's Lake," she warns. "Some of them slope right into the lake, and others of them have actually been underwater when Devil's Lake has flooded before. So, the chance that Devil's Lake will be contaminated from the runoff is very good."

The North Dakota Department of Health has not yet issued a permit for this farm.

Along with contamination of water systems, Tanner Herbert with the Dakota Resource Council says methane and other gases produced by these operations are the main health concerns, and there are economic downsides as well. He says land value near CAFOs could drop by half, and smaller, local farms risk losing customers to the larger operations.

"You push out any possible competition from the little guy," he says. "Unless you have a niche market hog farmer where you can directly market your product, you can't compete with somebody who is producing 100,000 hogs a year."

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ND