A federal jury in North Carolina decided on Friday that Smithfield Foods would have to pay a hefty dollar amount of $473.5 million dollars to neighbors of three of the company’s large hog farms. The neighbors had filed an unreasonable nuisance lawsuit because of odors, flies, and large trucks rumbling down the road. The jury says Smithfield owes the compensation because it failed to stop the “obnoxious, recurrent odors, and the other nuisances caused by the operations.” The North Carolina Pork Council says a decision like this will spread to other states in farm country.
The group is calling for an appeal of the decision, saying, “This verdict will spread from North Carolina to all corners of American agriculture.” North Carolina Representative David Rouzer says, “These nuisance lawsuits that are destroying the livelihoods and communities in North Carolina are the tip of the iceberg for what is to come, absent a well-informed public and good public policy.” He calls the lawsuits a slippery slope that threatens every form of American agriculture.
A special agriculture roundtable discussion took place on Friday in Raleigh, North Carolina to address the issue. Lawmakers and agricultural leaders discussed the growing threat to farmers and how out-of-state lawyers are using nuisance lawsuits to get around states’ right-to-farm laws. The discussion included the economic impact of these lawsuits on the rural economy and America’s farmers. American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall told the gathering that these suits pit neighbor against neighbor and communities against each other. “The regulations need to be on trial lawyers,” he says. “We need to let our farmers and ranchers do what they do best, which is feed the world. They aren’t a nuisance. They deserve a fair shot to grow and succeed.”
North Carolina Farm Bureau President Larry Wooten says he’s very concerned about the scars left over in North Carolina and in rural communities because of these lawsuits. North Carolina Ag Commissioner Steve Troxler says these nuisance lawsuits won’t stop at animal agriculture. “If we don’t do something about it now, there’s not a farm in America that won’t be affected,” Troxler says.
Source: NAFB News Service