Missing Pigs & Neighbor Relations – Protecting Neighbors from Smells and Pigs from Thieves

October 18, 2011

The New York Times reports that pig thefts are on the rise in the Midwest, especially in Minnesota and Iowa.  If you’ve ever seen a hog finishing barn, you know that many large pigs live together in long housing facilities.  These barns are often located away from towns, main roads, and even the farmers themselves.  There are all sorts of laws about hogs, not only animal care laws, but real estate issues as well.  For example, depending upon when the farmer put his barn there and how he operates the ag facility, he may or may not be liable to his neighbor for a nuisance claim arising out of the smell that naturally accompanies pigs.  Or the farmer may be protected by Minnesota’s Right to Farm statute, which states that agricultural operations shall not be considered a nuisance if they meet certain criteria.  Counties may even require neighbors of hog farms to sign and record an agreement indicating they know they live in an agricultural area and agree that it has smells and sounds that naturally accompany that line of work.

All of these laws have culminated to keep hog farms away from people, which means they may have inadvertently become a prime target for thieves.  Hog prices are high right now.  Corn prices are also high.  So it’s relatively expensive to feed and grow a hog to market weight.  But a thief who steals a fully -grown hog may have just found himself a tidy profit.  One farmer, for example, estimated his losses at $30,000.  Because non-farmers who move to the country often want peace and serenity, they can be surprised at the sounds and smells of agriculture.  Farmers have responded by making their barns more automated, locating them on gravel roads, and keeping them out of yards and housing areas.  Responsible farming that keeps neighbors happy.  Consequently though, there are fewer watchful eyes to protect the farmer’s work.

I imagine farmers will be watching more carefully.  As rural neighbors, I hope we can do the same.

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