Cooper vetoes hog farm nuisance lawsuit limits

Posted May 5

Hog farm generic, hog, pig, pork

— Gov. Roy Cooper on Friday vetoed legislation that limits damages for property owners who live near hog farms and other farming operations in North Carolina.

Under House Bill 467, the damages that a court could award to a property owner who claims nuisance damage by a nearby agricultural or forestry operation to no more than the actual market value of that property.

"The agriculture and forestry industries are vital to our economy and we should encourage them to thrive," Cooper said in a statement. "But nuisance laws can be used to protect property rights and make changes for good."

North Carolina, for example, was able to use nuisance laws to win damages from the Tennessee Valley Authority over air pollution from the utility's power plants that was affecting air quality in North Carolina.

"Special protection for one industry opens the door to weakening our nuisance laws in other areas, which can allow real harm to homeowners, the environment and everyday North Carolinians," Cooper said.

The measure initially was aimed at capping damages against Smithfield Foods subsidiary Murphy-Brown, which is involved in 26 federal lawsuits in the state. But House Republicans leery of getting involved in pending litigation last month revised the bill so it affects only future lawsuits.

"This is a big win on behalf of hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians, including many who have seen their property and health harmed by the animal waste literally sprayed on them from factory farms," Craig Cox, senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources at Environmental Working Group, said in a statement. "If this bill had become law, the long-standing legal rights of hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians would have been radically restricted, and Smithfield Foods and other companies would have been given free rein to pollute communities at will."

Documents filed Friday in the lawsuits against Murphy-Brown details testing that found fecal bacteria from pigs in the yards of homes within a half-mile of hogs farms in North Carolina.

"It's disappointing that the Legislature passed this bill to strip away legal rights of certain citizens, although these same rights are available to all other North Carolinians," Molly Diggins, director of the North Carolina Sierra Club, said in a statement. "While the majority of farming and forestry operations may not cause problems, there are outliers in any industry. Neighbors whose rights are harmed by these operations should be able to receive fair compensation under the law."

Meanwhile, the North Carolina Chamber called Cooper's action an "anti-jobs veto."

"[It] puts the interests of plaintiff attorneys before those of North Carolina’s greatest economic engine," Chamber President and Chief Executive Lew Ebert said in a statement, noting agriculture accounts for about one-sixth of the state economy.

The North Carolina Pork Council called on lawmakers to override the veto.

"The ratified bill strikes a balance in providing clarity and certainty to farmers while ensuring that property owners remain protected," the group said in a statement. "Our laws offer special protections for a wide range of industries – and farmers are among them. North Carolina’s pork producers follow stringent environmental regulations."

"I am incredibly disappointed in Gov. Cooper for once again turning his back on family farmers and rural North Carolina and putting out-of-state trial lawyers first with this misguided veto," added Sen. Brent Jackson, R-Sampson.


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  • Rudy Bizzell May 11, 7:18 p.m.
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    just like that Jim Black being a eye doctor and getting a law passed limiting the amounts you could sue eye doctors. Well they might better off to remember what happened to the tobacco companies.

  • Tom Harris May 9, 1:42 p.m.
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    "So what im seeing here is that most of you think it is ok to tell a farmer what he can do on his property because you want to build or buy a place close by. Grow up children if he was there already you have no right to demand anything. Go find a place in a city where there are no farms." - Gary

    Here's the problem with your simplistic solution - it would be great if these "farmers" (actually big corporate hog processors) could keep their stink and pollution confined to their own property. But of course, we all know that they cannot, and when it negatively impacts other people's property and rights, it is no longer their "right". Right?

  • John Archer May 8, 5:21 p.m.
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    View quoted thread

    There are NOT "millions of able-bodied" welfare recipients out there. Maybe you should google some statistics once in awhile, or is that too difficult for you? Or maybe you just don't care about anybody but yourself?

  • D. Aaron Hill May 8, 3:46 p.m.
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    CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) are farms in name only, they are actually industrial operations.

  • Sean Creasy May 8, 8:12 a.m.
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    Here's a thought on that... Take the MILLIONS of able bodies welfare recipients over the age of 18 and put them to work in the fields.....

  • Stacie Hagwood May 5, 7:02 p.m.
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    I do not support polluters, but I also think, generally speaking, that lawsuits with exorbitant awards cost all of us. Perhaps the limit to the value of a property isn't enough but isn't there a limit between that and the sky that could strike a balance?

  • Robert Dalton May 5, 1:43 p.m.
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    We are already going to be paying more at the Grocery store. Who do you think is really going to be paying for the so called Trump Wall and it's not going to be Mexico. A good portion of our vegetables come from Mexico and the wall tariff will raise prices. Not only that, with Trumps fight with Canada, Soft Lumber and Dairy will be going up as well.

    That and the fact that California grows a large portion of corps and they depend on Mexicans to harvest the crops, along with Georgia Peaches and a bunch of other crop states and industries. All those prices are going up with Trumps plans to scare off everyone.

  • Robert Dalton May 5, 1:39 p.m.
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    View quoted thread


  • Buddy Brande May 5, 12:52 p.m.
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    Cooper is an attorney and he his looking out for the rest of the attorneys out there looking to cash in on these
    ridiculous lawsuits. Without the measure anyone in the future could buy property and build next to a farm only to turn around and sue for whatever the attorneys feel they could get. Those that are cheering this veto might want to think about that because we are the ones that are going to pay for these lawsuits when we go to the grocery store!

  • Gary Thompson May 5, 12:38 p.m.
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    So what im seeing here is that most of you think it is ok to tell a farmer what he can do on his property because you want to build or buy a place close by. Grow up children if he was there already you have no right to demand anything. Go find a place in a city where there are no farms.