Farm Bill Shields Hog Industry from Waste Disposal Lawsuits
The bill of interest this week, Senate Bill 711, is putting North Carolina’s rural citizens at risk of continued exposure to hog pollution, reducing health and property rights for the individual. We encourage House members this upcoming week to vote “NO” on SB 711 to protect our citizens’ health and quality of life.
Under section 10(b) of the law, the North Carolina Farm Act of 2018 states that activities conducted by an agricultural operation cannot be considered a nuisance unless evidence demonstrates that they are not consistent with the standard practices of the region. The prevailing waste management practices across North Carolina for hog farms generally consist of manure lagoons and spray fields, both of which generate large amounts of odor and negatively affect nearby residents. This bill would render nuisance lawsuits against these practices entirely useless since they would be the general practices for the region. Rural North Carolina residents living in regions dominated by these practices would be subjected to living in extremely unsanitary conditions — a constant stench, pesky flies, and the threat of bacteria — without the ability to take legal action and restore their quality of life.
This regulation of waste management cements manure lagoons and spray fields as the status quo by ensuring that they remain untouched by lawsuits. Not only does this legislation encourage keeping old waste management technologies, but it stifles waste management innovation, as new practices would be considered outliers in some communities and thus not protected from lawsuits.
Such new practices are not out of reach. In fact, Smithfield Foods — the largest hog farming company in North Carolina, and the largest pork producer in the world — has implemented new technologies to reduce odors on its farms in Missouri. Due to the lack of legislative pressure in North Carolina, the company has neglected to do so here.
After recently losing the first of many nuisance lawsuit for their practices, Murphy-Brown, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, is now putting pressure on the North Carolina General Assembly to reduce their accountability.
Overall, this bill does nothing to protect individuals and small farmers, but instead kowtows to large corporations by decreasing their liability and providing a pathway to protected pollution. As public concerns are disregarded and citizens’ rights to nuisance claims are left to wilt, we once again urge our legislators to vote “NO” on SB 711, and urge you to help us by contacting your representatives here.