New governor fires back at ‘cheap stunts’ attacking his hog farms

By: - January 24, 2023 5:55 pm
pillen billboard

A physicians group that supports a plant-based diet has erected a trio of billboards in Lincoln and Columbus urging Gov. Jim Pillen to phase out factory farms. (Courtesy of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine)

LINCOLN — Newly sworn-in Gov. Jim Pillen is firing back at billboards in Lincoln and Columbus that went up recently attacking the governor’s hog operations, calling the billboards “cheap stunts.”

Pillen, in a press release Tuesday, said the aim of the billboards was to “destroy Nebraska’s way of life by shutting down our state’s largest industry – livestock.”

Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Pillen
Gov. Jim Pillen (Rebecca S. Gratz for Nebraska Examiner)

“As the Governor of Nebraska, I will always stand and defend our businesses, farmers and ranchers against radical activists who value cheap stunts over bettering the lives of Nebraskans,” he said in the release.

The billboards were erected by the Washington, D.C.-based Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine beginning two weeks ago. Pillen and his family own the Pillen Family Farms hog complexes.

They criticize Pillen for the “suffocating stench” generated by “factory farms” and call on him to shift the state to more plant-based, climate friendly agriculture.

The physicians group, which says it has 35 members in Nebraska, promotes a vegetarian diet on its website.

Pillen, in his press release, said the physician’s group failed to acknowledge the “significant economic benefits” from cattle, hogs, dairy and poultry production in the state.

Nebraska has more cattle than people and ranks No. 2 in the nation for cattle on feed. In 2017, the state’s agricultural sector contributed $25.7 billion to Nebraska’s gross state product, or 21.6% of the total, according to the University of Nebraska.

Pillen is the first active farmer elected governor in more than a century.

In 2000, 18 residents who lived near some of Pillen’s hog-confinement operations in Nance and Boone Counties filed a lawsuit, alleging that the hog sites were a nuisance that generated “unbearable” odors. A judge ordered Pillen to take steps to mitigate the odors.

The Examiner reached out to the governor Jan. 9 but he had no comment at that time.


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Paul Hammel
Paul Hammel

Senior Reporter Paul Hammel has covered the Nebraska Legislature and Nebraska state government for decades. He started his career reporting for the Omaha Sun and later, editing the Papillion Times group in suburban Omaha. He joined the Lincoln Journal-Star as a sports enterprise reporter, and then a roving reporter covering southeast Nebraska. In 1990, he was hired by the Omaha World-Herald as a legislative reporter. Later, for 15 years, he roamed the state covering all kinds of news and feature stories. In the past decade, he served as chief of the Lincoln Bureau and enterprise reporter. Paul has won awards for reporting from Great Plains Journalism, the Associated Press, Nebraska Newspaper Association and Suburban Newspapers of America. A native of Ralston, Nebraska, he is vice president of the John G. Neihardt Foundation, a member of the Nebraska Hop Growers and a volunteer caretaker of Irvingdale Park in Lincoln.