If you think it can’t happen to you, think again. Joey Carter is a family farmer. He had hoped to leave his hog operation in Duplin County, N.C., to his sons, but because his farm was in one of the recent Smithfield lawsuits, he’s in the process of depopulating the pigs. He’s retired from law enforcement, and has been a volunteer fireman for more than 30 years, but he was blindsided when some of his neighbors joined together to in the nuisance lawsuits against Smithfield Foods. (This article tells about the first Smithfield lawsuit and this follow-up article gave details of the second lawsuit, followed by this article about the third lawsuit in early August).
Because of a gag order, the farmers who own the farms where the pigs were raised were denied the opportunity to tell their stories.
That changed earlier this week, when the gag order was lifted.
In this video, Lynda Loveland with North Carolina Farm Bureau, interviews Carter about the impact the lawsuit has had on him and his family.
While he is optimistic, and feels this is a “bump in the road,” he admits it’s been extremely difficult. The lawsuits have split his community in half, with farmers on one side and the rest of the community on the other.
It is unfortunate that a dangerous precedent has been set, especially since jurors weren’t allowed to visit the farms and observe best management practices.
"The lawsuits are a serious threat to a major industry, to North Carolina's entire economy and to the jobs and livelihoods of tens of thousands of North Carolinians," said Keira Lombardo, Smithfield senior vice president in a statement.
“Some people in North Carolina and the Texas trial lawyer who brought these nuisance suits seem determined to destroy the hog industry in the state,” said Jim Heimerl, current president of the National Pork Producers Council, in a press release. “If they succeed, they’ll put more than 46,000 people out of work and cost the state – the nation’s second largest pork producer – millions of dollars in economic activity.
“This trial-lawyer abuse of our legal system and the threats against family farmers and the safe, nutritious food they produce must stop now!” he added.
Listen for Yourself
Listen to this interview, and picture yourself in this situation. Talk to your neighbors and be visible as a community volunteer and supporter. If there is a problem with your management practices, fix it now.
With everything else the U.S. pork industry is facing now, the last thing you need is a frivolous, unwarranted lawsuit, but it could happen if you’re not taking care of business at home and with your neighbors.