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Tribal members protest in S. Dakota over planned hog farm

Friday, April 18, 2008

WAGNER, S.D. —  Yankton Sioux tribal members worried about odor and health risks are protesting the construction of a large hog farm on private land surrounded by tribal land in south-central South Dakota.

The South Dakota Highway Patrol was called in to the protest site Wednesday, and more than 40 highway vehicles were present. State troopers were not at the protest Thursday, said Mitch Krebs, press secretary to Gov. Mike Rounds.

Long View Farms LLP is a group of farmers from the Hull, Iowa, area who want to build a farrowing operation to house about 3,350 sows and produce up to 70,000 pigs a year.

Arlan Moss of Long View Farms has said the project west of Wagner has the needed permits.

Protesters this week used a loudspeaker to deliver the message, "No pig farm." They said the main concern is the health risk a hog farm could pose to the area _ particularly considering a Head Start program just three miles away.

"We want to shut this down," said Kip Spotted Eagle, a Yankton Sioux tribal member. "We want this to stop because it's not acceptable for our kids to become sick."

Tony Garcia, president of Ihanktonwan Community College in Wagner, said part of the blame must be shouldered by Charles Mix County, which has no zoning laws.

"All that is is a glorified septic tank," Garcia said of the hog farm site.

Moss said this week that the sow farm would create 13 full-time jobs and would be good for the area's economy.

"If we thought we were an environmental hazard, we wouldn't be there. We're very conscious of that," Moss said.

Moss said his family raises crops and livestock in the Hull area and needed an isolation unit for sows to farrow their pigs, which would be shipped back to Iowa after they're a couple weeks old.

"We started working on this down there last summer, and we knew there were some people opposed to it, but we had people who were very in favor of it. We tried to answer everybody's questions."

John Stone, tribal vice president, said the tribe has been protesting peacefully and just wants to make sure the hog farm doesn't present any risks to people or property.

"It's just absurd to think there would not be any impact to our lives, our health or our property," he said.

The odor would be a concern to people driving by, Stone said earlier this week.

South Dakota Attorney General Larry Long said Wednesday that the state has had no legal involvement in the dispute except to keep the peace at the protest site.

"This is essentially a dispute between an entrepreneur who is trying to construct a hog confinement facility and his neighbors," Long said. "At this point, this is a private dispute and law enforcement's involvement is essentially to try to keep things civil and keep folks on both sides from breaking the law."

Krebs said the Highway Patrol troopers were at the site Wednesday at the request of Charles Mix County law enforcement, "because protesters and construction workers would be face-to-face in close proximity."

With construction moving away from the highway that goes by the site, Krebs said local officials believe they can maintain control. About 50 to 100 protesters have been at the site this week. Authorities say the protest has mostly been peaceful; one man was charged with throwing an object on Tuesday.

Complicating the issue is that the area is a checkerboard of private, tribal and deeded land.

A Yankton Sioux tribal judge on Monday ruled that the hog farm developers could be kept off reservation land. Tribal attorney Charles Abourezk of Rapid City said the ruling basically prohibits the developers from traveling across Yankton Sioux Reservation land to get to the site.

The hog farm is on private deeded land, with tribal land on the north and private land to the east, south and west.

Some of the road leading to the hog farm site is under tribal and federal jurisdiction, while portions in areas of privately owned land are under state jurisdiction, Long said.

"The narrow question is who can do what on the road. Part of the answer to that question is driven by what part of the road you are on, literally. You end up out there with a survey crew to figure out where the limits are," Long said.

Protesters on Wednesday erected a tipi on reservation land across from the hog farm site.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.





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