The Kansas Department of Health and Environment slashed to $34,000 the fine paid by a northwestern Kansas hog business for building confined feeding facilities in Norton and Phillips counties without permits and for ignoring the state’s cease-and-desist orders to halt the work.

A pair of consent agreements covering Rolling Hills Pork and Old Stone Pork signed by representatives of the Nelson family’s hog farm operations, based in Long Island, Kan., dismissed a majority of the original $147,000 fine imposed in January, KDHE said.

Under the negotiated deal, KDHE was paid $34,000 by operators of the hog facilities. The agency reserved the right to demand payment of up to $25,000 from Rolling Hills Pork and as much as $21,000 from Old Stone Pork if the businesses again violated state law before October 2020.

“It’s not even a slap on the wrist. More like a gentle tap,” said Craig Volland, chairman of the agriculture committee of the Kansas Sierra Club, which has filed a lawsuit challenging a separate plan by the Nelson Farms to expand the number of hogs at its production facilities.

KDHE intervened after it determined buildings and waste facilities capable of serving more than 30,000 swine were being built without permits.

In October 2017, KDHE Secretary Susan Mosier ordered all work stopped until the state approved permit applications, construction plans and waste management programs, including waste retention lagoons or ponds.

State fficials reminded hog farmer Terry Nelson and his business associates in person, by telephone and by email in November 2017 they were forbidden from constructing the swine facilities absent permits. Work at both sites continued into December 2017.

“Construction undertaken before approval of all of these documents is considered to be in violation of the statute,” said KDHE attorney Katelyn Radloff.

KDHE issued a $76,000 penalty to Rolling Hills Pork, which was the responsibility of Clarke and Julia Nelson, who are related to Terry Nelson. The Old Stone Pork operation’s fine of $71,000 was directed at Janet Sell, manager of an LLC linked to Terry Nelson.

Gerald Kratochvil, spokesman for KDHE, said both fines were appealed. Clarke and Julia Nelson as well as Sell signed the consent agreements in October.