Industrial Farming and Its Impact on Our Waterways
In North Carolina, House Bill 467 is bad news for the rural communities impacted by industrial meat production facilities. Governor Cooper recognized that and vetoed the bill; however, the veto was overturned and this bad bill is back! More information about why this bill is bad is below.
We continue to advocate for clean water and healthy communities!
This Bill Protects Polluters Who Are Hurting People
Hundreds of property owners from southeastern North Carolina sued Smithfield’s Hog Production Division due to the pollution caused by Smithfield’s hogs in southeastern North Carolina. These lawsuits seek compensation from a corporate pork producer making record profits ($1.7 billion in 2016). Local farmers weren’t sued.
Waste emissions and discharges from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOS) can cause harms to health, lost income, and pain and suffering. This bill eliminates compensation even when these impacts are proven in court in a nuisance suit.
North Carolina law already protects agricultural operations from frivolous lawsuits. Furthermore, none of the pending lawsuits at issue here have been found to be frivolous or unwarranted; the plaintiffs have survived motions to dismiss.
This Bill is an Attack on Private Property Rights
This bill would reduce options for North Carolina homeowners to protect themselves when CAFOs unreasonably interfere with their use of their property.
Nuisance laws have existed for hundreds of years. The basic legal principle is that one should not be allowed to unreasonably interfere with the use or enjoyment of another’s property. This bill would change law which predates the United States by saying, regardless of the nature or degree of such interference, the only harm is to the neighbor’s property value (ignoring any damage a neighbor’s health or quality of life).
This Bill Exacerbates the Disparate Racial and Economic Impacts of Industrial Farming
Many CAFOs are located in low-income areas or communities of color (hog operations in particular are concentrated in minority communities). These communities disproportionately suffer from the pollution caused by these operations. By taking away available legal remedies, this bill is especially harmful to these vulnerable populations.
This bill incentivizes placement of agricultural operations in communities with low property values where liability exposure, because of limited to property value, is lower.
CAFOs depress the fair market value of private properties nearby. That means by the time a neighbor files a nuisance claim, there’s not much property value damage left to attribute to the nuisance, making it impossible for a court to ‘make the injured party whole’ if the only recovery is that related to diminution in property value.
We are celebrating a big victory in North Carolina!
The United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) External Civil Rights Compliance Office expressed “deep concern” that the State’s failure to adequately regulate more than 2,200 industrial hog operations has a disparate, discriminatory impact on African American, Latino, and Native American communities in eastern North Carolina. The letter was sent to NC Department of Environmental Quality in connection with EPA’s ongoing investigation into our federal civil rights complaint filed in September 2014. Read more on the Waterkeeper Alliance website.
Video Series: The True Cost of Industrial Meat Production
The True Cost of Industrial Meat Production campaign aims to raise awareness of environmental injustices being perpetrated against North Carolina’s most vulnerable populations and features powerful, first-hand accounts of community members, esteemed scientific experts, and local people on the ground. This campaign shows the devastating impacts to public health, quality of life, and local waterways caused by industrial animal agriculture.
Access the videos by clicking the image below:
Industrial meat production facilities, confining thousands of animals in industrial-like conditions, routinely violate the Clean Water Act, damaging the health of communities and waterways while destroying the independence of generational farmers.
These operations, which tend to be geographically concentrated around the industry processing facilities and feed mills, can produce as much waste as a small city, but without the most basic waste treatment system to process it. As a result, the facilities frequently dispose of untreated animal sewage on adjacent lands in excess of the amounts needed for crop production and discharge that waste into local waterways in violation of the Clean Water Act, contaminating water resources and damaging the health of downstream communities.
Swine CAFO in North Carolina (Credit: Larry Baldwin)
In North Carolina, we are working with Waterkeeper Alliance and other NC Riverkeepers to implement an unprecedented strategic, state-wide campaign to regulate pollution from multinational and national corporate-controlled swine, poultry and dairy facilities, which are devastating rivers, lakes and estuaries across North Carolina. Our method includes:
- Targeted investigations
- Grassroots advocacy
- Enforcement actions against North Carolina CAFOs
- Administrative challenges to state and federal regulatory schemes
- Strategic partnerships; and
- Coordinated advocacy efforts with other state and national organizations
Our goal is to stop and cleanup water pollution caused by the concentration and waste management practices of swine and poultry operations by forcing government agencies to properly regulate and enforce their procedures. We support food production systems that do not harm water quality, communities and farmers, and hold agribusiness corporations responsible for waste management solutions.