Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Suing Hog Farmers

Hog lawsuits raising stink in Missouri
By BILL DRAPER – 6 hours ago

BERLIN, Mo. — A faint rotten-egg smell drifts off a covered lagoon a hundred yards from a well-traveled Missouri gravel road. It's not an overpowering odor, but it's there.

Aside from a few dirt-speckled pickup trucks kicking up dust as they pass by, this battleground — ground zero in what some see as a high-stakes fight for the future of Missouri agriculture — is calm.

But in Kansas City law offices 80 miles away, combatants prepare for another showdown over the smells drifting from this 80,000-head hog operation. Is the aroma an obnoxious affront to neighbors or simply the "odor of agriculture" that comes with life in the country?

It's a fight Charlie Speer has waged for nearly 15 years. The Kansas City attorney has won almost $10 million from Premium Standard Farms and its affiliates in trials since 1999, and this summer praised a $1.2 million settlement with an unrelated southwest Missouri operation as having "set the bar" for future settlements.

Hog odor lawsuits are nothing new. The issue of what constitutes an agricultural nuisance has been argued anywhere hogs are raised.

"In Missouri, there is no limit to the amount a plaintiff can recover for an alleged nuisance, no matter how slight," Smithfield said in a statement to The Associated Press. "The potential for an unlimited recovery for a minor injury makes Missouri extremely attractive to out-of-state plaintiffs' lawyers looking for big paydays." Read More

Nobody will deny that there are smells associated with animal agriculture. However, I think the thing that gets lost in the shuffle here is the fact that these lawsuits are hurting farm families. There aren’t any billionaire executives out feeding and caring for the livestock. They are being cared for by honest hard-working family farmers that enjoy working with livestock and producing food for their country. With the anti-agriculture groups and the lawyers involved, they won’t be happy until they have run all of these families off their land.


Bea Elliott said...

Glad to see you got to use your favorite descriptions of farmers again: "Honest and hard working". And I don't doubt that these "family" farms that run 140,000-head hog operations just work their fingers to the bone. All those buttons to push inside the "climate controlled" buildings with "automated feeders"... Still there's all that teeth pulling, castrating, tail docking, ear notching, and the physical stuff required to "humanly" euthanize the sick ones...

Nonetheless, can we say really that they are "honest" if they are denying their community members peaceful enjoyment of their property? After all the flies, smell and contaminated ground water does affect their rights - does it not? And from what I've read in the complaints, the hog operations came after the original residents were already homesteaded.

Fair is fair now, isn't it? How would you feel if your home was under odor-assult from a hog "farm" with waste from a small city of pigs? I'm quite certain you'd be protecting your property rights for the decades that it took to do such too. I know I would. And I hope these people get some kind of justice for all that's been denied them.

caheidelberger said...

"family farmers" with 80,000 hogs in one feedlot? You must be joking.

The CEO of Wal-Mart has a family, but that doesn't mean Wal-Mart is a nice little family business.

I can recognize the difference between the gentle aroma of cow manure thawing in the spring time on my neighbors' pasture (ah, the smell of money!) and the unhealthy, vomitous stench of thousands of creatures wallowing in their own filth in a feedlot. Pass the hot dogs.

DME said...

Law suits are not the only way Townspeople are trying to get rid of swine farms.
The DAR and MDAR are working hard to see that this bill does not make it through!