I don’t think I can sum this one up any better than the original article….

Mediation is first step in hog disputes
By JAN HORGEN, Of The Globe Gazette

MASON CITY — Hogs, to a producer, smell of money.

But as the number of confinements increases, the smell of manure has created conflict.

Settling these neighborhood disputes falls first to the Iowa Mediation Service.

Iowa law, since 1990, has required mandatory mediation before a nuisance lawsuit can be filed regarding any animal confinement.

Since the expansion of corporate pork ownership, beginning in the early 1990s, the industry has come under fire.

“Before that time, pork production was on a smaller scale, most of it family owned,” said Stan Deardeuff, a regional coordinator for the Iowa Mediation Service.

With the rapid increase of new confinement buildings built in Iowa in the past 18 months, Deardeuff expected to be called in for more mediations.

That has not been the case.

“I believe it’s because of better siting by the pork producers and better understanding of what past problems have been,” he said.

A major problem more than 10 years ago was a lack of communication, he said. “Often, the first indication neighbors had that a hog confinement was being built was seeing a bulldozer sitting in a field.”

When heavy equipment arrives, questions arise and emotions can run high.

If a hog producer considering a new confinement does a little legwork ahead of construction, it often goes a long way toward keeping peace in the neighborhood, say Deardeuff and Eldon McAfee, a Des Moines attorney who represents pork producers in mediation cases.

Mediation law is written so the two disputing parties rather than the mediator make decisions. That way, if an agreement is reached it is consensual.

Enforcement of the agreement falls to those involved in the mediation, not any legal agency, McAfee said.

How often does mediation change a planned confinement construction?

Not often.

“Early intervention is the best,” Deardeuff said. “Often by the time a situation gets to mediation, money has been spent and there are financial commitments, so the producer is not willing to lose money.”

McAfee agrees there have been few, if any, situations in his 15-year involvement in mediation that a proposed siting has changed or a written agreement has materialized.

“But although there may be no formal resolution, many times the neighbor and producer agree to keep talking,” McAfee said.

Mediation, both men say, has been key in reducing the number of nuisance lawsuits filed regarding confinements.

Disagreements start with an anticipatory nuisance, a case of people being concerned that there will be an odor or health problem, McAfee said.

“It’s really a value dispute — quality of life versus economic development,” Deardeuff said. “Whose rights should dominate, should carry more weight? I don’t know. That’s what makes this such a difficult situation. There are no clear-cut answers.”