When D&D; hog farm moved its South Dakota-based operation to northeast Colorado, Sue Jarrett thought she was getting a good neighbor. What she got instead, she says, were overpowering smells and polluted water. "The odor is so sickening that at times it drives you back in your house," says Jarrett, who was born and raised on her family's ranch.
Jarrett has joined an unusual coalition of Colorado ranchers,
farmers and environmentalists that support a ballot initiative to
regulate large hog farms. D&D;, for example, is one of nearly 20
factory-style hog farms that have brought over a million hogs to
Colorado's eastern plains since 1989. Colorado continues to draw
hog farms like a magnet, says Carmi McLean of the nonprofit Clean
Water Action, because the state has no enforceable laws regulating
the hundreds of thousands of gallons of waste pigs produce each
"It's not the hogs
themselves that scare me; it's the numbers," says Ralph Mercer, a
Crowley County farmer with 700 hogs. "They will contaminate the
groundwater so bad there'll be no water to drink in the state."
Mercer supports the citizens' ballot initiative
that would require large hog operations to obtain permits, cover
waste lagoons and provide quarterly water and soil quality reports.
It would also require farmers to put up financial assurances,
similar to damage deposits, so that when hog farms pollute,
"taxpayers don't get stuck paying for the mess," says Dave Carter
of the Farmers Union.
But Dave Luers of D&D;
Farms says the expense of the proposed regulations would close him
down. He and other hog farmers have come up with their own
initiative, expected to also appear on November's ballot, which
makes it illegal to single out and regulate one livestock species
Melissa Elliot of the Farmers
Union says its not surprising to see the swine industry putting up
a fight. Wyoming, Kansas, Oklahoma and other states have already
regulated large hog operations. "Colorado," she says, "is just
about their last frontier." - Jennifer