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Rosebud hog farm back in court

WASHINGTON - It was thought a settlement between the Rosebud Sioux Tribe
and the owners of a major hog farming operation would have settled the
long-standing controversial project, but a new legal challenge is underway.

A complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. asks that the
latest settlement agreement be declared invalid and for the court to order
a new environmental assessment.

The court filing asks that the settlement agreement reached between Bell
Farms, owner of the hog farming operation, the BIA and the Rosebud Sioux
Tribe be declared invalid. The plaintiffs want the hog farming operation
shut down.

The complaint argues that an environment impact statement, or EIS, was
never completed by the Department of Interior as was agreed to in an
earlier court settlement.

The plaintiffs claim that a majority of tribal members oppose the hog
farming operation and that profit sharing and fees to be paid by Bell Farms
of Wahpeton, N.D. has never been paid to the tribe.

Humane Farming Association, one of the plaintiffs, claims the animals are
mistreated and that workers are working under hazardous health conditions.
Claims that the hogs are overcrowded, frequently beaten to death and
starved were also waged by HFA.

Bell Farms has continued to argue that no such ill treatment takes place
and that subsequent investigations have proven that no maltreatment of
animals or workers takes place.

The recent settlement agreement between Sun Prairie, a subsidiary of Bells
Farms, and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and federal government would allow Sun
Prairie to continue operating two farms. The original plan was to construct
and operate 13 hog farms, but the settlement would stop the expansion and
limit the operation to the existing two farms, leaving 24 barns. Each barn
will produce 2,000 hogs per year, or 96,000 hogs total.

The effect this new lawsuit might have on any financial arrangement the
tribe has with Bell Farms, or how the details of the latest settlement will
be affected, is not certain.

The official word from the Rosebud Sioux tribal president's office on this
latest development is "no comment; the tribe is considering legal options."

The hog operations are expected to continue while this latest glitch is
worked out.

In 1998, litigation to stop the hog farm was successful and out of that
came the order to create an EIS. The groups that filed that lawsuit -
Concerned Rosebud Citizens, Humane Farming Association and the South Dakota
Peace and Justice Center - filed this latest complaint.

The terms of the most recent settlement would allow Sun Prairie to operate
the two farms, change the term of the lease from 50 to 20 years, give the
tribe $60,000 per year in rental payments and pay the tribe $15,000 per
year for water. After 15 years the tribe could exercise the right to
purchase the facilities at fair market value.

In 2003, a new council asked the BIA to shut the hog operation down, and
Sun Prairie sued to prevent a shutdown. The most recent settlement was
reached in May.

The latest complaint asserts that two members of the CRC have suffered
economic and personal hardships because of the hog farm's proximity to
their ranch operations.

The complaints stated that CRC member George England, who lives five miles
from one of the farms and one mile from another, has suffered "physical
harm to his olfactory senses and suffered a disruption of normal ranch and
family life."

Marvin Starkjohann, also a CRC member, lives three-quarters of a mile from
one of the farms and, because of the aesthetics created by the farm and the
odor, his property values have eroded. He cannot sell any part of his ranch
for residential development.

The current complaint continued the plaintiff's argument that the original
EIS did not comply with the by National Environmental Policy Act, and that
a full EIS should be required.