The North Dakota Supreme Court has ruled on the side of Ramsey County Farm Bureau and Dan Plemel of Starkweather, N.D. in a livestock zoning case.
"This is an extremely important ruling for North Dakota agriculture," said Ramsey County President Rodney Brown in a statement. "It keeps the decision-making on environmental regulations where it belongs - with the North Dakota Department of Health."
In the lawsuit, Ramsey County Farm Bureau and Plemel argued that the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners overstepped its authority by passing environmental regulations that dealt with environment standards that animal feeding operations had to meet
But the North Dakota Supreme Court ruled that, "The Legislature gave the authority to adopt environmental regulations for animal feeding operations to the North Dakota Department of Health."
Ramsey County Farm Bureau and Plemel also argued that North Dakota counties are limited by state statute to zoning the nature, scope and location of animal feeding operations. The North Dakota Supreme Court agreed, writing that state law gives counties only the authority to regulate, through zoning regulations, "the location of the operation, size of the operation and type of animal."
Attorney John Shockley, who represented Plemel and Ramsey County Farm Bureau, said the agency's design manual and permit application address air quality and water quality concerns individuals or groups may have.
"The department has the authority, expertise and the manpower to ensure the health and safety of individuals and to protect the environment. The county does not." Shockley stated that the decision was important for all North Dakota farmers because it "helps to define the extent of a county's authority to enact zoning regulations affecting animal agriculture." Shockley noted that the North Dakota Department of Health is charged with regulating environmental issues and has developed a design manual and permitting process for animal feeding operations based on Environmental Protection Agency guidelines.
"It seemed very clear that the Ramsey County Commission was doing its best to keep livestock development out of the county," said NDFB President Eric Aasmundstad; "but state law prohibits counties from precluding livestock development. We commend Ramsey County Farm Bureau and Dan Plemel for standing up to an injustice and doing what they needed to do to make sure individuals have the opportunities they are afforded by law."
Aasmundstad said that there has to be trust in the abilities of the state to regulate environmental aspects of livestock efficiently and judiciously, otherwise it is the individual who suffers.
"Can you imagine the nightmare producers would face if we had 53 sets of environmental regulations regarding livestock zoning out there? We are happy to see the Supreme Court's decision and feel a great injustice has been rectified."
Source: N.D. Farm Bureau