Farm family’s fate rests with Maryland judge

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The stage is set for the final act in the legal drama that has pit agriculture producers against environmentalists.

If the Waterkeeper Alliance is successful, it could set a harmful precedent for many of the country’s large- and small-scale family farms.

The Waterkeeper Alliance’s lawsuit dates back to 2009 when another environmental group, the Assateague Coastkeeper, flew a plane over Kristin and Alan Hudson's farm and reported what appeared to be a pile of chicken manure draining into a nearby ditch. The material was later confirmed by the Maryland Department of the Environment to be treated sewage sludge from Ocean City, Md., which was used by the farm as fertilizer. Despite the corrected information, the Waterkeeper Alliance proceeded with its lawsuit.

The Hudsons grow corn, soybeans and hay, and raise cows and chickens on a 200-acre farm in Maryland's Eastern Shore.

According to a report from The Baltimore Sun available here, the case now rests in the hands of Judge William N. Nickerson, who is presiding at the trial. Nickerson has expressed skepticism earlier this year about the Waterkeeper Alliance’s evidence and has noted that he could order the environmental group to pay legal expenses for both the Hudsons and Perdue Farms, for whom the Hudsons raised chickens, if no violation is found.

A ruling against Perdue would be a first, and many in agriculture worry that such a ruling could change the way chickens – and potentially other large-scale livestock species – are raised.

“If this case is successful here, it could set a precedent for producing food in the rest of the country — a dangerous precedent,” Bill Satterfield, director of the trade group Delmarva Poultry Industry, told the  Capital Gazette in an article available here.

After three years of ongoing legal battles, the lawsuit is expected to be decided within the next three weeks.

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pa  |  October, 10, 2012 at 08:11 AM

Prayers are going out to this family. As a family farmer, who is also currently being sued, my heart goes out to you. Some organizations just won't be happy until they have forced all farmer's out of business and we are depending on foreign countries for our food supply. Best wishes and prayers to all of you.

Omaha, NE  |  October, 10, 2012 at 08:58 AM

After this family succeeds in court, I hope they sue the pants off this organization. I'm all for clean water but they are obviously in the wrong in this case and should never have been allowed to create so many problems for this family over a period of 3 years.

Joe Dairyman    
USA  |  October, 10, 2012 at 09:27 AM

The Center to Expose And Close Factory Farms has been suing Hog farms and now has targeted Dairies. With all the risks to produce food for the public and no protection from this minority of people suing Ag business is driving farmers out of business. Lawsuits against producers are popping up everywhere. Our right to farm laws are failing our farmers. America is going to wake up one day wondering why we are dependent on foreign food. Consumers are worried about how their food is produced in the US wait till it's imported and we have no control how its produced. With only 1% of population farming today who is going to want to produce food derived from livestock in the future. Where is our young farmers going to get the Capitol to operate these operations? Why would they want the risk?

kansas  |  October, 10, 2012 at 10:33 AM

Farmers, being a tiny voting minority, are easy targets for enviro-bullies like Kennedy's Water Keepers Alliance. They cover the harm they do by "packaging" themselves as defenders against pop-culture straw/boogey-man "Corporate Farming" - the equivalent of "1%ers" & "Big Banks". With big-name political party insiders like Kennedy leading the attack (from his Westchester mansion or while in Hollywood squiring some starlet), no one in the current administration is going to defend honest business people, even when their own bureaucrats in the EPA say these people are honest and in compliance. Time to expose them, expose the truth and counter-attack. Videos like this one, and the facts associated with the case need to be Trumpeted Loudly in the National Press... over and over. And the character, motives, honesty and political connections of these organizations and their leaders need to be questioned - in public - now!

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