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Published February 23, 2010, 01:57 PM

Deadline looms for hog producer to meet decree

PRINCETON, Mo. — About 1,500 residents of northern Missouri have attended a meeting about an upcoming deadline for Premium Standard Farms to make environmental improvements.

By: Associated Press,

PRINCETON, Mo. — About 1,500 residents of northern Missouri have attended a meeting about an upcoming deadline for Premium Standard Farms to make environmental improvements.

Attorney General Chris Koster, who oversees a 1999 court order with Premium Standard Farms, was at the meeting Monday night. The original court order required the state’s larg-est hog producer to make $25 million in pollution-reducing equipment but has been expanded since and is still being implemented.

Koster was non-committal about extending the July 31 deadline for compliance. He said at the meeting Monday that he has to consider jobs and property rights equally.

“There has to be a balancing of the interests,” Koster said. “I believe that is achievable.” Koster’s office did not immediately return a call seeking additional comment.

Many residents at the gathering said they were concerned that enforcing the deadline could threaten Premium Standard’s operation in northern Missouri.

“I think PSF (would) probably close,” said Gary Billington, mayor of Green City. “It will be a man-made disaster.”

Smithfield Foods Inc., based in Smithfield, Va., acquired Kansas City-based Premium Standard Farms for $674 million in 2007.

Smithfield Foods said in 2007 that it would abide by the restrictions placed on Premium Standard. Smithfield Foods, the nation’s largest hog producer, and Premium Standard, did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Smithfield has also been dealing with other financial and legal issues. In January, the U.S. Justice Department also reached a $900,000 settlement with Smithfield Foods Inc. and Pre-mium Standard Farms over premerger rule violations.

The two companies announced their proposed merger in September 2006. The Justice De-partment’s antitrust division alleged that Smithfield began running a significant part of Premium Standard’s business before a mandatory waiting period expired.

Premium Standard is also involved in a lawsuit with a handful of northwest Missouri resi-dents. The plaintiffs want money for what they say are intolerable smells coming from Pre-mium Standard’s nearby hog complex.

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