One of Oklahoma's largest hog farming operators has been publicly protesting the 3- mile setback restrictions they're legally bound to honor, but one state Senator says the corporate leaders need to look to the law already on the books for the answer instead of complaining to the Legislature.
Seaboard has reportedly invested millions of dollars getting their operations ready, but the corporation claims it is being unfairly hindered by an Oklahoma law designed to protect property owners located near the operation.
According to Senator Paul Muegge, D-Tonkawa, Seaboard's latest claim that their operations are bound too tightly by a state law passed in 1998 is a problem easily remedied and does not require the legislature's intervention. The legislator says all Seaboard has to do is follow the allowances offered under the law and be more respectful to the concerns of property owners close to Seaboard's location.
"We've heard several concerns that the law is too restrictive and is prohibitive of Seaboard's efforts to launch one of their operations in Oklahoma," said Senator Muegge. "But that's the point of establishing the law in the first place - to protect those people who have property nearby. They stand to be jeopardized by contaminated run-off and other hazards of corporate-run operations. They deserve to have legal reinforcement if their toes are stepped on."
Although these setbacks are established clearly in Muegge's legislation, the bill also exempts an operation from these setback requirements if the company negotiates with potentially affected property owners and satisfies owners that their health and property will not be threatened by the proposed hog operation.
"Seaboard is complaining that the law is too restrictive, but they've failed to utilize the component of the bill that makes the law flexible," said Muegge. "When I authored SB 1175, I specifically added the setback flexibility as an indication of good faith in the future partnership with corporate farming operations. Call it a "good neighbor" policy. It was designed to encourage companies to make a genuine effort to cooperate with adjacent property owners rather than look to the Legislature to provide them with approval for their operations."
Muegge says the private sector has many companies with off-the-shelf technology to abate odor and provide technology to treat the waste. A few examples include agricultural wastewater treatment systems, air quality improvement methods and emergency lagoon treatments.
"The hog production industry has consistently rejected any and all available waste management technology," said Muegge. "It should be considered an investment, not a cost to the factory farms."