About 70 people — mostly from the town of Buffalo, N.D. — showed up today to listen to Cass County District Judge Douglas Herman’s hearing on whether the North Dakota Department of Health erred in granting a permit to the Rolling Green sow operation that is planned for that community.
Derrick Braaten, a Bismarck, N.D., lawyer, is representing the community opponents to the plan. Among other things, they are saying that the piglets produced by the farm are not properly counted as .1 of an animal unit. The state, represented by Maggie Olson, an assistant attorney general, says unweaned piglets are not counted separately, but even if they were the facility would still be under the limit.
The opponents also see the addition of about 2,400 acres of farmland available, if necessary, for manure use as a fertilizer, is a sign that the project needs more review. But Olson says the manure won’t go onto a parcel without a plan anyway, so that issue is moot.
Herman didn’t seem to indicate a direction on whether he’ll approve the plan but said he’d take it under advisement and issue an opinion within a few weeks. He said it likely will be headed for an appellate level, which is the North Dakota Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals. Significantly, he didn’t indicate which side might be making the appeal.
Braaten is a columnist for Agweek magazine.