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Kansas hog farmer fined $152,000 for unauthorized facilities

Hog Farm (MGN)

Kansas regulators have fined a northwest Kansas swine operation $152,000 for ignoring orders to halt the construction of unauthorized facilities capable of holdings tens of thousands of hogs.

The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that documents it obtained show Nelson Farms owner Terry Nelson, working with family and employee partners through limited liability companies, did not get permission from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment before starting to build unauthorized animal confinement buildings and waste-holding facilities in Phillips and Norton counties.

The Kansas chapter of the Sierra Club filed a series of complaints about KDHE's oversight of construction in a rural area near the Nebraska border. Neighbors at both locations also filed procedural and environmental objections.

The fines ordered by KDHE amounted to a slap on the wrist, said Craig Volland, chairman of the Sierra Club's agriculture committee in Kansas.

Aaron Popelka, an attorney with the Kansas Livestock Association who represents the Nelsons on the projects, said the KDHE fine was being challenged, but otherwise declined comment.

"These are ongoing issues," Popelka said. "There are facts in dispute."

Nelson submitted planning documents to KDHE in October for a facility named Rolling Hills Pork in Norton County and a complex called Old Stone Pork in Phillips County. Rolling Hills would be able to hold 9,300 head, while Old Stone would be capable of handling 24,000 head.

KDHE inspectors documented construction activity at the sites even though no preliminary approval for the sites was granted at the time. KDHE Secretary Susan Mosier ordered all work stopped until the state formally approved permit applications, construction plans and waste management programs.

But in December, state inspectors twice observed construction at the Rolling Hills Pork and Old Stone Pork locations. KDHE in January sanctioned Nelson and his associates $76,000 for state law violations at the Rolling Hills Pork site and $76,000 for infractions at the Old Stone Pork site.

KDHE said the fines are being appealed. The Phillips County project eventually received the agency's approval, but not the Norton County development.

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