Legislative leaders in North Carolina have overridden the governor’s veto on a controversial farm bill that could restrict litigation against large livestock operations. This might make it more difficult to sue large livestock operations over odor, declining property values and other nuisances. The legislature has now overridden 16 of the 23 bills Cooper has vetoed.
“Overriding this veto and correcting Gov. Cooper’s unwise decision sends the clear message to our family farmers and rural communities that they have a voice in the legislature and that this General Assembly intends to give them the respect they deserve,” the bill’s chief sponsor, GOP Sen. Brent Jackson of Sampson County, said after Wednesday’s vote.
Despite opposition that included members of their own party, Republican legislators introduced the nuisance language in Senate Bill 711 earlier this month. They said it was required to fend off more lawsuits such as the 26 cases filed against Murphy-Brown LLC, the hog-farming division of Smithfield Foods. Despite the passage of this law, it would not affect the current Murphy-Brown LLC cases already filed.
Opponents of the bill on both sides of the aisle argued that it is possible to support agriculture without eroding property rights.
When Cooper vetoed the bill he said "while agriculture is vital to North Carolina’s economy," so are “property rights” that “are vital to people’s homes and other businesses.”
Details of the state's Farm Bill
The bill only applies to agriculture or forestry businesses. Stipulations in the Senate bill 711 include:
- -Only people living within a half-mile of a farm can file a nuisance lawsuit
- -Plaintiffs would be prohibited from obtaining punitive damages in court unless a farm was implicated in criminal convictions or government enforcement actions.
- -Must act within a year of a farming operation starting or undergoing a “fundamental” change. This does not include changes in ownership, technology, product or size of the operation.
Throughout the week, both supporters and protestors actively worked to advance their viewpoints. Hundreds of farmers voiced support for the farm bill on Monday. Read the N.C. Pork Producers’ statement in support of the 2018 Farm Act.
Another provision in the farm bill prohibits soy, almond, coconut and other plant-based milk suppliers from labeling their products as "milk" in North Carolina.
Read more about the 26 lawsuits against Murphy-Brown LLC, owned by Smithfield.