Recent Nuisance Suits Involving Farms Highlight Why Farms Should Understand How a Right-to-Farm Defense Operates

Cover Crop Agriculture in Frederick County, Md.

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

Right-to-Farm Law Does Not Protect Landowner From Nuisance Caused by Septage Lagoons

 

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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

Right-to-Farm Law Does Not Apply in a Recent North Carolina Hog Farm Dispute

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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

Upcoming Fact Sheet: Understanding Agricultural Liability: Maryland’s Right-to-Farm Law Can Limit Liability for Maryland Farmers and Commercial Fishing and Seafood Operators

 

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Image by Mariano Mantel, flicr.com

 

In 2014, the Maryland General Assembly updated the state’s right-to-farm law to include commercial fishing and seafood operations.  As many of you know, a state’s right-to-farm law operates to provide a defense to nuisance lawsuits brought against agricultural operations and, now in Maryland, commercial fishing and seafood operations. Continue reading

Court of Appeals Finds State’s Right-to-Farm Law is Unconstitutional As Applied

 

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Source USGS via Wikicommons

 

This post is not legal advice.

All fifty states have some version of a right-to-farm law that provides defenses to agricultural producers for lawsuits they are committing a nuisance in his/her operations. In November 2016, the Court of Appeals of Iowa upholds a lower court’s ruling that Iowa’s right-to-farm law is unconstitutional as applied to a neighbor claiming a neighboring hog farm is a nuisance and awarding damages to the neighbor. For those unaware, finding a state’s right-to-law unconstitutional as applied to a neighbor is a unique to Iowa. Iowa’s courts have found the state’s right-to-farm law is unconstitutional when applied to neighbors there first. At this point, no states have followed Iowa’s lead and found their state’s right-to-farm laws unconstitutional as applied to neighbors there first. Continue reading