Commentary

Columnist debunks myth-making by Forest, Troxler on industrial hog farms

Be sure to check out columnist Ned Barnett’s latest entry in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer in which he debunks the dishonest politicizing/pandering in which Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and Ag Commissioner Steve Troxler have been engaged of late on the subject of industrialized hog farming.

This is from Barnett’s column (“A contrived rally can not mask the hog industry’s real stink in NC”):

“A prime example of phony victimization could be found Tuesday at a rally in Duplin County. That’s where backers of the hog industry turned out small farmers and residents to protest nuisance lawsuits against industrial hog farms.

Gathering folks in jeans with signs reading “I’m a fan of NC family farms” is part of an effort by Republican lawmakers and officials to cast the nuisance suits as an attack on small farmers. But the lawsuits aren’t aimed at family farmers growing soybeans, corn and sweet potatoes. They’re aimed at a Chinese-owned multinational corporation, Smithfield Foods, which is content to treat swaths of eastern North Carolina as cesspools until it’s forced to do otherwise.”

After explaining how juries have been ruling against Smithfield in a series of nuisance lawsuits because if its irresponsible behavior toward its neighbors and that GOP legislators have been trying to insulate hog producers from such suits, Barnett concludes this way:

“Forest put on his populist hat to talk to the farmers’ rally about the evils of ‘big money.’

‘This is one of those times in the history of North Carolina farmers where you have to say enough is enough,’ Forest said. ‘When we have big-money, out-of-state trial lawyers ginning up plaintiffs around your farms and around your communities so that they can come in and sue you, so they put you out of business and they make millions of dollars doing it, that’s not right. That’s not fair, and that’s not something we should tolerate in North Carolina.’

Forest is right about one thing. It is one of those times in the history of North Carolina when people have to say enough is enough. The degradation of eastern North Carolina by industrialized hog farming has been going for decades. The industry refuses to invest in technology that could greatly reduce the nasty smell and pollution. Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers are are creating an unseemly order of their own by lining up to protect the industry from being held accountable in the courts.

If the hog industry wants to stop nuisance lawsuits it should stop being a nuisance. Until then, voters should toss out the industry’s protectors in the legislature and continue to bring on those ‘big-money, out-of-state lawyers’.”

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