Friday, July 19, 2024

NC politicians support Chinese-owned hog farms, say nuisance lawsuits hurt American farmers

In June, a North Carolina jury awarded neighbors of Smithfield Foods operated hog farm $25 million in damages. Now, politicians are coming out against "frivolous" nuisance lawsuits.

Congressman David Rouzer is hosting an agricultural roundtable, opposing recent nuisance lawsuits. The roundtable's panelists include lobbyists, state politicians and government officials. (Port City Daily/File photo)
Congressman David Rouzer is hosting an agricultural roundtable, opposing recent nuisance lawsuits. The roundtable’s panelists include lobbyists, state politicians, and government officials. (Port City Daily/File photo)

SOUTHEASTERN, N.C. — After neighbors of a hog farm were awarded millions, some North Carolina politicians want to ensure that never happens again.

Murphy-Brown, LLC, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, was ordered to pay its Duplin County neighbors a total of $25 million in June. Neighbors took their case to court after claiming the hog farm’s waste management practices impacted their quality of life.

RELATED: Pender County resolution calls hog farm lawsuits ‘frivolous’ and sides with state legislators

Some North Carolina politicians said recent lawsuits against Chinese-owned Smithfield Foods threaten American agriculture. Congressman David Rouzer is hosting an agricultural roundtable Friday, alongside a host of politicians, government groups, and lobbyists.

In a statement announcing the roundtable, Rouzer said “today’s nuisance lawsuits” threaten American agriculture and are destroying North Carolina communities.

“A ‘nuisance’ is very much in the eye of the beholder and every single farm family that is in compliance with all applicable regulations – no matter what they are growing – should have a safe harbor from legal action being brought against them,” he wrote.

Last month, Pender County passed a resolution, calling nuisance lawsuits “frivolous.”

This language mirrors state legislation, passed two days before the Duplin County verdict was issued. Rouzer’s comment also mimics state language that states “nuisance lawsuits threaten the very existence of farming in North Carolina.”

Senator Thom Tillis said nuisance lawsuits, influenced from “outside lawyers” could decimate the state’s agricultural economy.

New Hanover County’s district Representative Deb Butler said that while farmers are integral to the state, waste management practices must be re-examined.

“One property owner cannot infringe on their neighbor’s enjoyment of their own property,” Butler wrote in an email.

You can read local legislators’ full comments below:

“Today’s nuisance lawsuits that are destroying livelihoods and communities in North Carolina are the tip of the iceberg for what is to come absent a well-informed public and good public policy.  A ‘nuisance’ is very much in the eye of the beholder and every single farm family that is in compliance with all applicable regulations – no matter what they are growing – should have a safe harbor from legal action being brought against them.  This is a very slippery slope that threatens the very existence of every form of agriculture nationwide,” Congressman David Rouzer said.

“The influence from outside lawyers in this case has the potential to decimate our state’s vibrant agriculture industry and the countless rural communities supported by it. Agriculture is the number one industry in North Carolina, and it is important to hear from those affected by this threat. These lawsuits have the potential to affect the agriculture community and farmers nationwide, and I look forward to participating in this event to learn how North Carolinians could be affected and how we can help,” Senator Thom Tillis said.

“We need farms and farmers. They are an integral part our N.C. economy, but one property owner cannot infringe on their neighbor’s enjoyment of their own property. I believe we must find a way to help farmers acquire the technology that exists and is quite effective in capturing odor and managing waste. It is possible to harness methane gas that can be sold. The Storm Farm in Bladenboro is already using this state of the art technology and that should be our focus moving forward,” Representative Deb Butler said.


Send tips and comments to Johanna Ferebee at johanna@localvoicemedia.com

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