A lagoon for hog waste. Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Agriculture
Now that neighbors to one hog farm have one court victory against the world’s largest pork producer, state legislators are moving to shield hog farms from nuisance lawsuits.
This is not the first time the General Assembly has tightened protections for both livestock growers and the corporations that own the animals they raise. They’ve done it multiple times in recent years, sometimes in direct response to court cases.
The 2018 farm bill, on a fast track for approval in Raleigh this week, would create a statute that says a farm cannot be considered a nuisance in a courtroom if that farm complies with relevant regulations and operates like others in its “region.”
Legislators must take steps to defend an agricultural sector that is so important to North Carolina’s economy, said bill sponsor Sen. Brent Jackson, R-Autryville, who represents Duplin and Sampson counties, the two top hog-selling counties in the United States.
“Our goal is to ensure that all farming operations are protected from frivolous lawsuits,” Jackson said in an email Wednesday. “Due to recent judicial rulings, it has become blatantly obvious that the legislature must take action to clarify our intentions and correct these misguided rulings.”
But one of a team of in-state and out-of-state lawyers representing 500 citizens who are suing Smithfield Foods and alleging nuisances at 26 farms sees it differently.