A pig breeder is challenging the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s order to build a confinement facility for his hogs, arguing it would hurt their health.

Luther Clevenger and his wife, Julie, raise Gloucestershire Old Spots pigs and other livestock on their 15-acre property near Aumsville, Ore., which has experienced water drainage problems during heavy winter rains.

ODA inspected the operation repeatedly this year after receiving several complaints that Clevenger’s 200 pigs were “creating a huge mess and affecting the property values of all the adjacent property owners” and that water was flowing onto neighbors’ lots.

The agency ultimately concluded that Clevenger’s farm was violating water quality standards and ordered a multi-pronged “plan of correction,” requiring him to construct a “swine confinement facility” to prevent pollutant discharges to the “surface water of Oregon,” according to ODA.

Currently, the pigs are raised on pasture but have access to portable shelters.

The plan also requires Clevenger to store manure and wastewater from the facility so that none is discharged into waterways, apply manure to the soil at agronomic rates and maintain grassed filter strips, among other measures.

Clevenger recently filed a petition in Marion County Circuit Court asking for the “plan of correction” to be overturned, arguing he hasn’t polluted state waters.

Water had collected on a neighbor’s property during winter, but that’s because the previous property owner filled a natural drain to expand his lawn. Clevenger said.

While he’s not opposed to reducing his number of pigs or working with the Marion County Soil & Water Conservation District to improve drainage issues, Clevenger said the confinement facility isn’t feasible for his rare hogs.

“This breed can’t be confined. They don’t work in confinement,” he said.

When Clevenger has confined the pigs in the past, even for relatively short periods of time, they’ve lost weight and some have even died, he said.

“If you have them out on pasture, they do fine,” he said.

People who buy from Clevenger generally raise the hogs organically or without antibiotics, and sell the meat through a “Community Supported Agriculture” model or other specialty markets, and they “prize pastured pigs,” according to his petition.

Clevenger has invested substantial amount of money in acquiring Gloucestershire Old Spots pigs from “all available genetic lines,” which has involved flying them from other locations and importing frozen semen from Ireland, the petition said.

Bruce Pokarney, communications director for ODA, said the agency can’t discuss the litigation but could “talk about all the details once the issue is settled.”

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