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Lawsuit against National Hog Farms sends the right message

DENVER – Colorado’s Health Department is suing National Hog Farms, located in Weld County, and is seeking an injunction to stop the hog facility from applying waste during the winter when application is banned. That action is exactly what the state needed to do in this case, according to Dave Carter, president of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU). RMFU has advocated environmental regulations for industrial hog facilities since 1997.

Colorado voters passed environmental regulations for hog farms in a 1998 ballot initiative. Since that time most of the state’s giant hog farms have worked toward coming into compliance with the regulations. However, National Hog Farms has spent the time arguing with the Health Department over the regulations. The lawsuit seeks $4.4 million in fines for the 42 days that National Hog Farms applied waste during the winter and on weekends and holidays when it’s banned by regulations. National Hog also failed to provide adequate storage for the hog waste and didn’t submit appropriate odor-management plans.

The regulations ban application in the winter because plants are not growing at this time and cannot absorb the nutrients available in the hog waste. If the plants don’t absorb the nitrogen and phosphorous they can find their way into groundwater thereby compromising water quality. Waste application is banned on weekends and holidays because of odor complaints.

“This action is important because is shows that the state is not going to sit still and let the hog farms walk all over regulations that Colorado voters passed overwhelmingly,” Carter said. “The lawsuit reinforces what independent farmers in eastern Colorado worked for years to put in place so that they would have water and air quality protection. And it sends a message to those hog farms who have worked to comply with the regulations – their actions were not in vain.”