North Carolina Hog Farmers Get Free Pass to Pollution

North Carolina Hog Farmers Get Free Pass to Pollution
iStock/dusanpetkovic

Livestock farmers in North Carolina, the nation’s third largest hog-producing state, may soon be free from prosecution on numerous penalties over disposal of animal waste, most specifically, dealing with the intense odor produced by the massive hog farms.

North Carolina’s House of Representatives voted on the measure last week that would protect farmers from liability, but not those currently embroiled in lawsuits.

“The legislation would limit penalties that a jury or judge could impose against hog farms or other agricultural operations in lawsuits accusing them of creating a nuisance for neighbors,” reports the Associated Press. “The farms’ liability would be limited to the lost rental or property value plaintiffs can prove was the result of the nuisance. The liability couldn’t exceed a piece of property’s market value.”

House Bill 467 exempts 26 pending lawsuits against hog-producing giant Smithfield Foods’ subsidiary Murphy-Brown. Smithfield is owned by China’s WH Group.

According to The News & Observer, some of the lawsuits allege “that 89 hog farms spray waste that wafts across property lines and forces neighbors to flee indoors, turn up air conditioners, burn incense or sometimes leave the area until the spraying stops.”

Spraying is a common practice in dealing with the massive amount of hog waste. Farmers claim they’re spraying it as fertilizer for various crops, but the sprayers routinely miss the targets, hitting neighborhoods and homes. And even when the spraying is on target, it still creates air pollution and the overwhelming odor for residents.

The plaintiffs want Smithfield to switch to a more effective, yet more costly, method of pig waste disposal that would decrease some of the air pollution. The company is refusing the request.

Despite the exemption for current lawsuits, the decision sparked controversy among lawmakers and North Carolina residents, who say the smell from the animal waste is a serious ongoing problem that poses health risk for constituents, as well as decreases property value.

North Carolina represents more than $2 billion worth of the naton’s $21 billion hog industry.

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Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites OrganicAuthority.com and EcoSalon.com, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better. www.jillettinger.com.