Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller announced last week that United States District Court Judge Robert W. Pratt approved a consent decree on March 30, 2011 jointly submitted by the State of Iowa and Christensen Farms Midwest, LLC, of Sleepy Eye, Minn. Christensen owns and operates hog production facilities throughout Iowa and the Midwest.
The consent decree sets out the terms of a settlement reached between the state of Iowa and Christensen Farms Midwest resolving a dispute over the constitutionality of Iowa's prohibitions against processors vertically integrating into pork production in Iowa.
"This agreement protects the rights and interests of Iowa's contract producers working with Christensen Farms Midwest, and at the same time allows the company to continue doing business here in Iowa," Miller says.
Plans to boost pork processing capacity, expand hog contracting
Christensen Farms Midwest indicates that it plans to increase its pork processing capacity and expand its hog contracting business. Iowa law prohibits a processor from directly or indirectly operating, financing or controlling a swine operation within the state or contracting with Iowa producers for the care and feeding of swine in Iowa. This formal agreement, which also institutes contract grower rights, addresses the state's legal concerns.
"We had concerns about fairness to contract growers, and this consent decree addresses our unease," says Miller. "This agreement allows Christensen to expand in a way that protects contract growers, and it gives them both a voice and enforcement tools, if needed."
In return for Christensen's compliance with its commitments under the settlement, the State of Iowa will not pursue enforcement of the ban on packer involvement in swine production with respect to Christensen. The agreement expires on Sept. 16, 2015.