This week, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster announced that his office has reached a settlement with Smithfield Foods and Premium Standard Farms (PSF), the nation's largest pork producers whose 11 massive, confined animal feeding operations in Northwest Missouri have tormented their neighbors and polluted state waters with pig shit.
Back in March, the company was slapped with a $11 million judgment to be paid to 15 family farmers living near PSF's Homann hog facility in Gentry County. A jury agreed that the odors coming from Homann hurt the plaintiffs' quality of life.
The settlement means that PSF is one step closer to compliance with state and federal environmental regulations. In 1999, then-Attorney General Jay Nixon sued PSF over numerous leaks and spills from the lagoons at PSF's facilities that contain thousands of gallons of hog waste. In a court-ordered agreement, PSF was to install the best possible odor-reducing technology at each of its 11 facilities by July 31 of this year. A second lawsuit filed by Nixon for violations of Missouri Clean Water Law resulted in additional court-ordered requirements for PSF, with a deadline of August 1, 2010.
Having missed those deadlines, PSF now agrees to voluntarily pay $1.5 million to the road and school funds of Gentry, Daviess, Mercer, Sullivan and Putnam counties.
Under the new agreement, PSF must address its odor issues by installing mechanical poop-scrapers and bio-digesters to 365 hog barns within seven of its facilities by July 31, 2012. Failure to meet specific benchmarks along the way will result in penalties of as much as $6,000 per day.
PSF will reduce its hog population by 80 percent at each of the three remaining facilities in order to change those farms' designations from Class-1A farms to Class-1B, thereby exempting them from the previous court-ordered agreements.
The company still faces lawsuits by hundreds of plaintiffs who claim that the stink from PSF's facilities damages their way of life.