Know Thy Neighbors, or Meet Their Lawyers

We live in disquieting times. The tariffs slapped on U.S. pork going to China, the lack of a re-negotiated North American Free Trade Agreement, and other policy decisions have put the pork industry on edge. But an issue much closer to home should have you just as concerned.

The pending nuisance lawsuit in North Carolina against Smithfield subsidiary Murphy-Brown LLC, could change the way the pork industry does business if the judge rules for the plaintiffs. In fact, there are a total of 26 federal lawsuits filed by more than 500 plaintiffs who live near hog farms in eastern North Carolina (read the full article here). The lawsuits are about odor and particles from uncovered lagoons.

Did odors exist before out-of-state lawyers came to town and rallied the neighbors into becoming part of a lawsuit? More than likely. It was probably the combination of lack of communication, encouragement from said lawyers, and an effort to take a stand against “big ag” that helped convince plaintiffs to take the step toward litigation. It also may have been the lack of a plan to address potential problems, or the lack of positive, proactive neighbor relations.

Could It Have Been Avoided?
It’s hard to say what makes people angry or upset enough to be part of a lawsuit. For some, country living conjures up pleasant images but farming and animal production are businesses: tractors are noisy and livestock produce waste. For displaced urbanites whose backgrounds are far removed from the farm, their perceptions of country life are often unrealistic.

Lower income families may feel they don’t have a voice, or aren’t comfortable addressing issues with their neighbors. They may have lived in a place for a long time, while their surroundings continued to change due to forces outside their control.

Those of us who grew up on farms have learned to take the pleasant with the unpleasant, recognizing that odors are a normal byproduct of livestock production. But even I appreciate the fact that our neighbors knife-in the manure from their facilities, and do everything they can to minimize odor.

In other words, they work hard to do the right thing.

This is about farmers sitting down with neighbors, talking and taking steps to ensure quality of life for those around them. The very best operations hold open houses or appreciation events as a thank you to neighbors and customers. They practice the Golden Rule every day: Do unto others as you would have done to you.

Rural communities were built on how neighbors treated neighbors. Regardless of the size of your operation, that’s something you can’t forget.

And perhaps, through a well-planned effort on the part of each producer and the industry, maybe the next potential lawsuit can be avoided.

 
Comments
Submitted by William Tom Butler on Fri, 04/13/2018 - 06:47

Thank you, JoAnn for your insight into the mindset of a typical farmer and his

neighbor. I am a hog farmer, an 8000 CAFO feeder to finish contract farm, in Harnett

County NC. If the odor problem had been left up to the hog farmers and their

neighbors it would have been settled a long time ago. The industry (integrator) got

involved and insisted that the growers just ignore their neighbors complaints and

the problem would soon go away. The story line was "We have a right to farm and

your neighbors do not have a right to complain", we feed the world!. Well, it did not go

away, and it has lingered for more than 15 years and finally a few people said enough is

enough. I do not believe this is greedy lawyer or greedy neighbors doing a "money

grab", but it is the only course of action the plaintiffs had left. I truly believe that the

majority of the 500+ plaintiffs do not want a dime of money, but they do want to see

respect and action from the animal waste industry that their lives and welfare matters.

In the past and still today the plaintiffs have been called liars, exaggerators, trouble

makers and money grabbers! In the end the industry has pitted rural neighbor against

farmer and that is sad.

Submitted by Eric Wessels on Fri, 04/13/2018 - 13:08

Those pesky out of state lawyers. Perhaps because the local lawyers didn't dare fight against the big industry. And it isn't the displaced urbanites. It's the people who have lived there their entire life that suddenly find unregulated factories plopped down in rural locations with total disregard for everything. You have a good neighbor. Hooray for you. He or she is the exception. I know this publication is intended to speak to your industry so you write in a way that assures them that they are under attack from people that don't know what they are talking about. Producers do need to understand the failings of this industrial production model. And to be honest you should start with the overproduction of product and the negative impact it has on the producers pocket book. Ag is typically it's own worst enemy.

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Submitted by Acacia on Tue, 07/17/2018 - 23:07

Know your neighbors, or see their lawyer. The article is great, it tells us that good neighbor relations will be good for us
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