Commentary

Editorial: Hog farm trial should cause legislators to wake up and smell the…

As Policy Watch reporter Lisa Sorg reported once again yesterday, the facts of industrial hog farming in our state are profoundly disturbing and ought to be enough — even for those of us who live nowhere near such an operation — to cause a serious second, third and fourth look at lax state environmental policies. The impetus for Sorg’s reporting, of course, is a federal trial in which landowners who have been inundated by the stench and actual airborne debris from giant “farms” are bringing nuisance actions seeking damages for the horrific impacts on their lives and property.

Now, a new editorial published in the Greensboro News & Record explains why the trial ought to be the impetus for state lawmakers to back off of their special coddling of the hog industry (recent laws have sought to halt further suits against the industry by capping the damages victims can obtain). This is from “Hog farms on trial”:

“So, although the damages cap will apply to future lawsuits, there’s still the hope that the verdicts and any damages awarded in the current cases could prompt changes at the state’s hog operations.

Farming is an important industry in North Carolina, and the state is one of the nation’s leading pork producers. That should not mean, however, that industrial-size hog farms should be able to foul the air and sometimes the water, making life unpleasant and unhealthy for those who live nearby.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuits against Murphy-Brown report that large hog-waste pits produce intensely foul odors, swarms of flies and noise. If they wind blows the wrong way, they say, spray from the waste pits can coat their houses. The smells can permeate homes and cause severe headaches….

The pork producers, and the legislators who have protected them for years, argue that the hog farms already must comply with environmental regulations. But with only 14 state inspectors to monitor the state’s 2,100 hog farms, oversight cannot be what it should. And regulations might be improved.

This first trial could set key precedents. Attorneys for the hog industry argue that the court should consider only whether the 10 plaintiffs suffer from a foul nuisance. Jurors should not hear about such things as alternative ways of disposing of hog waste that are used in other places, they say.

We hope the jurors do hear such information. Even more important, we hope legislators in Raleigh pay attention.

They should protect not just corporate farms but also the health and well-being of those who live those farms.”

Click here to read the entire editorial.

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