Press "Enter" to skip to content

State-Level Permitting Adds Secrecy to CAFO Plans in ND; Swine Poop Brings Less Money, More MRSA?

Pipestone Holdings, the same folks who think it’s harassment to say that their pig poop near Mount Vernon stinks, wants to build a 9,000-hog concentrated animal feeding operation near Buffalo, North Dakota, about 40 miles west of Fargo. Pipestone Holdings likes that spot because North Dakota apparently thinks like G. Mark Mickelson:

Backers of the planned Rolling Green Family Farms swine operation in rural Cass County cited North Dakota’s “favorable permitting process controlled at the state level” in pitching their project last year at a state livestock summit.

Records obtained through open records requests show that officials from the state Department of Agriculture worked behind the scenes to help Rolling Green Family Farms secure an environmental permit for the 9,000-hog farm for almost a year before the public was notified of the proposal.

State agriculture officials were made aware that Pipestone Holdings was meeting with landowners near Buffalo in January 2015, months ahead of the Dec. 26, 2015, public notice for the hog farm sent out by state health officials [Patrick Springer, “Opponents Claim Buffalo Hog Farm ‘Not Done in Daylight,’ as State Ag Officials Knew Year in Advance,” Ag Week, 2016.03.17].

See the trick? Weaken local control, move more permitting from the county seat to the state capital, and the CAFO developers alert fewer local people as to what’s coming, meaning less time for local opponents to organize. Clever.

Also clever: Pipestone Holdings would name its Buffalo facility “Rolling Green Family Farm,” just as they call their Mount Vernon facility “Jackrabbit Family Farm,” since no one will begrudge a nice little “family farm” from producing the smell of money.

But some experts ask, what money?

One of the skeptics is Randy Coon, an agribusiness researcher at North Dakota State University who has spoken as a private citizen against the project, which would be located about 2 miles from his family’s farm.

Coon, noting that there are three unit-train loading facilities nearby, said many of the inputs for the hog farm likely would come from outside the region. He said local purchases of corn wouldn’t boost the economy, arguing they wouldn’t bring new money into the community.

He also said profits would go to absentee owners. On the other hand, “The additional truck traffic on township roads will require upgrades and maintenance at a time when their budgets are already stressed,” Coons wrote in comments to the state Department of Health, which will decide whether to grant a permit for the hog farm. “This facility would most likely result in tax increases for local residents” [Patrick Springer, “The Smell of Whose Money? Study Questions Impact of Factory Farms,” Grand Forks Herald, 2016.03.19].

The latter Springer article also cites research from UND rural sociologist Curtis W. Stofferahn that finds factory farms not producing the economic wonders that Pipestone and Mickelson say they will:

First, where industrialized farming expands we can expect distinct effects on communities’ socioeconomic, social fabric, and environmental well-being. Communi- ties that receive industrialized farming are likely to increase population relative to other communities (that is, if local family farmers are not displaced). They are also likely to experience greater income inequality; govern- ment services for the poor and other disadvantaged groups are likely to be needed. These communities will encounter stresses in the social fabric, particularly increased community conflict. In the case of large live- stock confinement operations, communities will be at risk for environmental and health problems, entailing the need for government intervention. Finally, communities that lose moderate-size family farms, in part because of transaction cost advantages (e.g., volume buying-selling) and public incentives given to industrialized farms, will lose a base of middle-class producers and experience population decline and rifts in social fabric. These communities are likely to have declines in other local businesses and the property tax base and may require state aid for social and public services [Linda Lobao and Curtis W. Stofferahn, “The Community Effects of Industrialized Farming: Social Science Research and Challenges to Corporate Farming Laws,Agriculture and Human Values, accepted 2007.07.19].

Hog CAFOs are also associated with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureusMRSA:

A team from the University of Iowa, Iowa City Veterans Affairs, and Kent State University have done just that. In next month’s Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, they survey 1,036 VA patients who lived in rural Iowa and were admitted to the Iowa City facility in 2010 and 2011. Overall, among those patients, 6.8 percent were carrying MRSA, drug-resistant staph, in their nostrils. But the patients’ likelihood of carrying MRSA was 2.76 times higher if they lived within one mile of a farm housing 2,500 or more pigs.

…This is not the first time that MRSA has been found in people who work on farms or live in the vicinity of them. Last year, a study found “pig MRSA” in workers from North Carolina hog farms, and another identified it in workers in Iowa and Illinois. Meanwhile, a third study published just in November found MRSA among people who lived in the vicinity of fields where swine manure was being applied. And last year, a group in Germany identified MRSA in people who lived near hog farms but did not have contact with animals [Maryn McKenna, “Almost Three Times the Risk of Carrying MRSA from Living near a Mega-Farm,” Wired, 2014.01.22].

Johns Hopkins researchers have also found an association between MRSA and crop fields fertilized with swine manure.

Buffalo, ND, residents are right to doubt whether they’ll be rolling in the green with the hog factory Pipestone Holdings wants to bring to town. They may be more likely to be rolling in a hospital bed.


  1. Thomas 2016-03-21

    So, is there a safe way to raise hogs?

  2. mike from iowa 2016-03-21

    Theoretically wondering- Would Mr Randal Coon,MS of NDSU be within his 1st Amendment rights to peruse outloud that any violence visited upon certain legislative members by certain citizens would be jake with him,Drumpf like?

    I certainly don’t mean to imply he would even harbor a thought that wild and uncivilized. However,the state does appear to be dismissing,out of hand,the will of the people in favor of the wealthy. The state,in their infinite greedery,also appear to be willing to aid and abet more health problems and antibiotic resistant disease. Which will cost taxpater’s more moolah in the end.

  3. M.K. 2016-03-21

    I would not eat a thing from soil that was fertilized with swine manure. I wouldn’t feed any grain to cattle that was grown in soil with swine manure. I wouldn’t let cattle graze on it either. I have read about the MRSA before and it scared me then. What I read that most farmers are in the hog confinement arena to produce liquid manure so that they don’t have to purchase commercial fertilizer in order to save crop production costs. They don’t care about the hogs. Hogs can be an income tax write-off. The smell is so offensive. I can drive down the road and I can smell it way before I ever see the barns. (even when they are hidden behind a grove of trees). If there is a good reason to confine hogs to a small building and pump them full of antibiotics; I would like to hear more from people who maybe know more about this than I do. There are organic fertilizers with natural ingredients like bone meal, granite meal, rock phosphate and many others. But, the chemical ones most used have nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium and sulfur in ratios that you need to monitor and they are water soluble. The swine manure cannot be broken down by micro-organisms/natural bacteria in the soil. It too, has to be monitored very closely. But once it is applied; it’s on there, in concentrated liquid form. Years ago farmers used to spread dry manure which was mixed with straw, hay and other bedding that was used for livestock. Now, animals are housed in confinement and chemicals are added to the manure to make it liquid/pits. When the state looks at this industry, I wonder how much investigation goes into their decision making.

  4. mike from iowa 2016-03-21

    Apparently the only serious danger,serious enough to be of concern is the loss of profits. They know,we know,he knows,she knows that Cafos are breeding factories for drug resistant nasties,but as long as they can wring out profits,they will keep breeding bugs.

  5. leslie 2016-03-21

    see my citations posted re: duke energy/kochs/fossil fuel anti-sustainable energy conspiracy on Winegar/voter registration thread here.

    wonder why kochs have offices here in SD, Sam@??

  6. Roger Elgersma 2016-03-21

    Building very close to infrastructure like rails and the roads it takes to deliver the grain means that there will be very few miles of county roads that will be used.
    I am not sure if the state rules in N.D. are weaker than local rules in S.D..
    The fact that Pipestone Holdings is talking to the locals far in advance means they are not necessarily more secretive than the state is.
    They might want to bake a little bread from the wheat from that elevator and eat it themselves rather than find out later that the good folks in Tokyo can taste the aroma of hog manure in donut shops in Japan. Well at least handle wheat close to an existing hog farm and then use it in your own oven.

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-03-22

    Sam, I wonder: can anyone get MRSA from emissions from a power plant burning pig poop?

  8. Joelie Hicks 2016-03-24

    Here is what Pipestone did in our neighborhood, good neighbors that they are. They very carefully went to landowners that did not live nearby to try to get manure acres without informing the neighbors.
    No one, no owner, manager or worker lives on the site of the Pipestone facility.
    Two of the signed parcels listed for manure were signed by someone who neither owned or rented the land.
    Pipestone knew they would be landlocked and would have to truck out most of their manure at the permit hearing, they voiced no objection. The P&Z were also aware. When when manure pipelines were being set in people’s ROW which was trespassing as well as destroying some crop, the company was chased off. Pipestone cried foul and went whining to the commissioners who gave them permission to set the pipes on the ROWs that belong to others. In our county we pay taxes to the center line on county roads. We can’t farm it, but other people can occupy it. This in my opinion makes Pipestone not a good neighbor, but a bully.
    Todd Kays addressed the commissioners recently and said that the non odor days of a cafo facility does not mean that it won’t smell on those days, it just won’t make you puke.
    As far as using the manure as energy, don’t bother. The machinery is expensive, manure is corrosive. The replacement and repair of those parts takes energy as well. Cory, I think you saw the report and photos of the manure digester up this way.
    There are still people who bed their animals heavily and dry stack their manure. Much better.
    Having fewer animals raised well is the way to go.

Comments are closed.