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Bass Brothers Win Battle of Millionaires

March 21, 1990

GREELEY, Colo. (AP) _ The Bass Brothers of Texas won a battle of millionaires when voters rejected a referendum that would have required a huge hog farm to build a $10 million facility to treat manure.

Weld County residents voted 14,706 to 6,334 to defeat a referendum on the issue, county officials said.

National Farms Inc., owned by the brothers from Fort Worth, Texas, opened the massive hog-processing operation 20 miles east of Greeley last year. When it reaches full capacity, the facility will process 300,000 hogs a year and will be one of the largest hog plants in the nation.

″Our reaction is that it was what we expected,″ said Bill Haw, president of National Farms. ″We built the most environmentally sound livestock facility in the world. The people in Weld County obviously recognized that.″

Advocates of the treatment plant claimed nitrogen from the pig manure is leaching into groundwater and may reach the nearby South Platte River.

The most prominent backer of the ballot issue was Denver oil and railroad magnate Philip Anschutz, who owns a 32,000-acre private hunting preserve downstream from the hog plant on the South Platte in northeastern Colorado.

Anschutz paid nearly $40,000 to underwrite the efforts of a citizens’ group, Protect Our Water, which was the chief advocate for passage.

The ballot proposal asked whether ″all swine production facilities in the county designed to hold more than 25,000 animals″ must provide secondary sewage treatment. National Farms is the only facility of that size in Weld County.

Haw claimed Anschutz was trying to get even with National Farms because the company bought land that Anschutz wanted for expansion of his preserve.

″It (the vote) was a vendetta by Philip Anschutz,″ Haw said. ″It didn’t take.″

Anschutz disagreed.

″The issue with us has always been making certain that public health and environmental protection are maintained as the massive hog farm increases its operations,″ he said in a statement.

He said he would continue to monitor the situation.

Haw said it would have cost National Farms about $10 million to build the secondary sewage treatment plant the ballot issue would have required.

National Farms currently flushes manure from its indoor hog-raising pens several times daily. The waste is collected and then sprayed onto grazing land used by cattle.

Haw contended National Farms’ irrigation system is sufficient treatment and that growing vegetation will consume the nitrogen from the hog wastes.

Other Weld County cattle feedlot operators feared passage of the ballot issue could hurt the county’s economy in the long run.

″We think it’s serious not only for business, it’s serious for the whole economic climate of Weld County,″ said Richard L. Monfort, president of ConAgra Red Meat Cos. of Greeley.

DS-03-21-90 0732EST

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