I am back again, highlighting another court decision covering a state’s right-to-farm law and the use of scare guns. In Mississippi, two producers began using propane cannon scare guns to prevent deer from eating their cotton and soybean crops during the summer months. The propane cannons created loud noises, and the neighbors’ ensuing lawsuit tried to prevent the two producers from using the cannons, claiming nuisance. The trial court agreed with the two producers that the state’s right-to-farm law barred the nuisance claim, and the Supreme Court of Mississippi recently upheld the trial court’s ruling, in Briggs v. Hughes.
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Late in 2020, we had a North Carolina Hog Farm Litigation settlement that ended several lawsuits filed against Murphy-Brown, LLC and Smithfield Foods. In May 2020, neighboring landowners filed a new set of federal lawsuits against Murphy-Brown and Smithfield, the same defendants in the prior lawsuits. Similar to the previous lawsuits, neighbors sued the companies that the farms grow for, not the actual hog farms themselves. In these lawsuits, the neighbors used legal theories based on trespass and negligence and not around nuisance. Recently, the federal judge hearing the lawsuit allowed it to continue and ruled the state’s right-to-farm law did not apply, though providing a defense in this case to the trespass and negligence claims. The judge also dismissed two other claims brought by the neighbors.
I have gotten a few questions involving farm dogs here lately and thought I would take a moment to provide information here on the issues. If you have livestock, you may have a dog to scares away predators that might injure or kill the livestock. This dog may bark throughout the night, which may cause an issue for your neighbors. And although your neighbors may find this a nuisance, many Maryland counties specifically exempt dogs used on farms from county ordinances limiting dogs from being a nuisance. You should check your county code to determine if farm dogs are exempt from the nuisance limitations in your county. For those in counties without a code provision for farm dogs, the county’s right-to-farm ordinance and state’s right-to-farm law potentially provide protections.
article is not a substitute for legal advice..
The 2018 Farm
Bill allows for more growers to grow industrial hemp. A farmer looking to add industrial
hemp on fields creates the possibility of conflicts between neighboring
landowners. The neighbors may not understand that industrial hemp is now legal
to grow or other concerns. Industrial hemp is now a legal commodity and growers
would potentially fall under Maryland’s right-to-farm (RTF) law. Industrial
hemp growers would be eligible for the nuisance defense in the RTF law.
With 2018 over and 2019 underway, I want to take a minute to look back at many of the top legal developments impacting agriculture in 2018. Many of these legal developments may seem like repeats from my 2017 update; click here. For those interested embedded above is a join podcast episode I did with Tiffany Lashmet covering the top ag law developments. With those repeated issues, in many cases, we have seen resolutions, and we will probably continue to see litigation further develop with a few problems in 2019. Moving into 2019, we will likely see new issues emerge as a new Farm Bill is implemented and further developments in the international trade area. If you have not already signed up for updates, see the bottom of this post or any post on this site to get email updates sent to you as new content is available. Continue reading →
Liquid manure being applied by a tractor a field in Maryland. Photo by Matt Rath/Chesapeake Bay Program
This article should not be considered legal advice.
Over the course of 2018, you have probably seen the stories involving nuisance suits brought by neighboring landowners against hog farms in North Carolina, leading to large verdicts against Smithfield Foods. Similar lawsuits are going on around the country involving neighbors claiming nearby hog farms are nuisances. In many cases, the state’s right-to-farm law should provide a possible defense to the farm, but the farm needs to meet all the requirements in the right-to-farm law to use the defense. Understanding the requirements can assist in maintaining the right-to-farm defense. Continue reading →
Farmland in Alaska by Michael Hayes via flickr.com
The article is not a substitute for legal advice.
Today, I want to highlight a recent right-to-farm law decision out of Alaska. The Supreme Court of Alaska, in Riddle v. Lanser, held that the state’s right-to-farm law did not protect a landowner who was storing septage on agricultural property. Many readers might be thinking that this is a bad time for right-to-farm laws, especially after the jury verdict involving a North Carolina hog farm, but this case highlights that right-to-farm laws do not protect those not really involved in agriculture before becoming a nuisance. Continue reading →
Hogs in hog barn. Image by Kevin Chang via flickr.com
The article is not a substitute for legal advice.
News broke recently of a $50 million jury verdict* for damages caused to neighbors of a large hog farm in North Carolina. The jury found that the hog farm was a nuisance to neighboring landowners. When many of us this saw this verdict, you may have had a similar thought to me: shouldn’t a state’s right-to-farm law should provide the hog farm a defense in this case. Before the jury’s verdict, the federal district judge hearing the case ruled that North Carolina’s right-to-farm law would not apply in this case. The judge ruled that there had not been a change in the condition in the area that would have allowed the right-to-farm law to act as a defense to the nuisance claims. Continue reading →