agriculture, Environment

House Bill 467 would shield industrial hog industry from many legal claims

 

 

Not a nuisance: hog manure spraying (Photo: John Hopkins University)

Nuisance (noun): A person, thing, or circumstance causing inconvenience or annoyance

Examples of nuisances: Pollen. A mosquito bite. A car alarm that goes off at midnight.

But industrialized hog farms, the subtext of  House Bill 467, entitled “Agriculture and Forestry Nuisance Remedies,” are more than mere irritants for the people who live next to them. They are life-altering, making it difficult to breathe and ruining the quality of life.

Yet the bill would prevent plaintiffs from recovering damages unrelated to property value, including compensation for health effects, lost income, and pain and suffering.

The House Judiciary III committee will hear the bill today at 12:30 in Room 421. It is co-sponsored by Republican Reps. Jimmy Dixon, John Bell, David Lewis and Ted Davis Jr.

It’s not coincidental that bill has been introduced while North Carolina’s hog industry, in particular Smithfield,  is the subject of legal complaints by nonprofit environmental groups; the EPA is also investigating allegations that the swine industry has intimidated residents, most of them minorities, living near the farms.

Dan Crawford, director of governmental relations for the NC League of Conservation Voters, issued the following statement in response to HB467:

“Unfortunately, residents of eastern North Carolina know this smell well: this time it’s the stink of foreign corporate profit at the expense of our natural resources and communities. House Bill 467 is nothing more than lawmakers putting a Chinese-owned company ahead of the long-term health and safety of the very communities who have been forced to endure the harms of hog waste for decades. Residents have a right to defend and protect their families through democratic legal channels. It’s despicable that the bill sponsors attempt to equate the long-term suffering of their constituents to a ‘nuisance’ that can be silenced by a foreign entity.”

Andy Curliss, NC Pork Council CEO, released this statement:

The N.C. Pork Council supports House Bill 467 and the reasonable protections it offers to all North Carolina farmers. The bill provides clarity about damages that could be recovered in nuisance lawsuits.

We are proud to stand with the N.C. Farm Bureau in encouraging the legislature to pass this bill for the benefit of North Carolina’s entire agriculture industry.

Agriculture is our state’s number one industry and largest economic driver. We have more than 50,000 farmers who care deeply about their communities and being a good neighbor. We would rather work with our neighbors to address problems instead of defending ourselves against frivolous nuisance complaints.

 

 

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