Mo., Premium Standard reach deal giving hog giant to 2012 to install technology to cut odorsBy Bill Draper, AP
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Mo., Premium Standard reach deal on hog odor issue
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Premium Standard Farms has been given a two-year extension to install technology at its hog confinements to reduce odors after it failed to meet a July 31 deadline established by a Jackson County court six years ago.
As part of the deal between the company and the Missouri attorney general’s office, the hog company has agreed to pay a total of $1 million, half of which will go to school districts in five counties and the other half to road funds in six counties.
The Princeton, Mo.-based company has 11 Class 1-A hog farms — each with a minimum of 17,500 hogs and some with as many as 150,000 — primarily in northwest Missouri.
Wednesday’s settlement calls for the installation of a new barn scraper system, coupled with something the company calls a Sustainable Technology System, at all of its hog confinements.
“This is the culmination of a decade of hard work and diligent research on the part of the state and our employees,” Premium Standard President Bill Homann said.
Under the deal, Premium Standard will have the technology installed in 48 of its 366 barns by the end of this year. By July 31, 2011, at least 136 barns will have the systems; 230 will have them by Dec. 31, 2011; and the rest will have the equipment by July 31, 2012.
If the company fails to meet any of those deadlines, it will pay fines ranging from $2,000 per day, per barn set, to $6,000 per day.
The settlement fulfills Premium Standard’s obligations stemming from a 1999 lawsuit filed by then-Attorney General Jay Nixon alleging violations of state and federal environmental laws. To resolve the 1999 suit, the company entered into a consent judgment in which it agreed to develop “next-generation technology” to prevent hog odors from polluting the air outside its barns.
Since then, the company said it has spent $40 million to research and field test at least 13 types of systems to remove the odor.
“It is my hope that today’s settlement will accomplish the goals set forth by the state of Missouri to protect clean water and air in northwest Missouri,” state Attorney General Chris Koster said Wednesday.
Nixon, who is now Missouri’s governor, filed a second lawsuit against Premium Standard in 2002 alleging violations of the state’s clean water laws. That ended in a 2004 consent decree that gave the company until July 31, 2010, to have next-generation technology installed at all of its farms.
But Premium Standard said it couldn’t come up with anything that qualified as “next-generation technology” until April, three months before the deadline.
As the deadline neared, anxiety began growing in several northwest Missouri counties where Premium Standard is a significant employer. The company says it has roughly 1,100 employees and supports about 1,400 workers at a processing plant in Milan, where 70 percent of its business comes from Premium Standard.
Job fears were exacerbated by legal action against Premium Standard brought by families that live within a few miles of one of its farms. In March, a group of 15 northwest Missouri residents — including 14 who received $100,000 apiece in the 1999 lawsuit — were awarded a total of $11 million.
After that Jackson County ruling, which Premium Standard has appealed, the company threatened to pull out of the state because of continuing litigation. Homann said Premium Standard is still facing hundreds of lawsuits, most of them filed by a Kansas City law firm.
Premium Standard spokesman Jean Paul Bradshaw blames some of the company’s woes on Missouri laws that allow people to sue for more than the value of their property, and as many times as they want, for what are considered temporary nuisances.
Tags: Agriculture And The Environment, Corporate Crime, Environmental Concerns, Kansas City, Missouri, North America, Technology Issues, Technology Law And Ethics, United States