This morning, the INDY reported on a new court filing revealing a scientific study that shows that, contrary to the assertions of industry offenders, liquified pig feces and urine that is released as mist from hog farms in eastern North Carolina is found in the air outside of and on the homes of some of the neighbors of those farms. This allegedly pervasive excrement is the currently the subject of twenty-six federal nuisance lawsuits filed by about five hundred rural North Carolinians against Murphy-Brown, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods.
Also this morning, Governor Cooper vetoed House Bill 467, which would have severely limited future nuisance lawsuits against Murphy-Brown and other hog farms. (An early version of the bill made that provision retroactive, meaning it would have tried to nullify these twenty-six pending lawsuits, but it died soon after the INDY reported that House bill sponsor Jimmy Dixon had received more than $115,000 from Big Pork.)
Senator and bill sponsor Brent Jackson—whose own farm was found last year to be in violation of minimum wage and other regulations—blasted the governor: “I am incredibly disappointed in Gov. Cooper for once again turning his back on family farmers and rural North Carolina and putting out-of-state trial lawyers first with this misguided veto.”
Two things: First, while there were out-of-state lawyers involved when the case began, the lawyers currently representing that plaintiffs are from the law firm of Wallace & Graham, based out of Salisbury, North Carolina. Second, Smithfield Foods is a $14 billion multinational corporation, so let’s stop with the boo-hooing about family farms.
But by far the most rage-inducing response to Cooper’s veto comes from the North Carolina Republican Party, which just sent out this humdinger of a press release:
Today Governor Cooper vetoed House Bill 467, a bill that would prevent farmers from being taken advantage of in court. It limits compensatory damages in nuisance lawsuits against farmers to the fair market value of the plaintiff’s property. An overwhelming amount of lawsuits have been filed against North Carolina’s farmers by people wishing to get rich. House Bill 467 is a common sense bill that simply prevents people from suing farmers, in the case of nuisances or damages, for more than their property is actually worth. After trial lawyers and environmentalists funneled millions of dollars into Governor Cooper’s campaign accounts, it is clear to see where his loyalty lies.
Where to begin.
First off, it’s worth noting here that most of the people who are having pig shit sprayed all over their property by this multinational corporation are poor and black. These are the people, according to the idiots at the NCGOP, who are taking advantage of the billion-dollar Chinese-owned multinational and “wishing to get rich.” Nice.
Second, about this “fair market value” canard. In fact, if this bill had become law, a typical property owner could only collect $7,000 over three years, the state statutory limit on collecting compensatory damages. What’s more, their properties—some of which have been in their families since soon after slavery ended—aren’t worth a whole lot, in part because they’re next to foul-smelling hog operations, and who wants to live like that? So, despite having to deal with that stench and the flies day in and day out, and—according to the study filed in court today—having excrement find its way onto their homes, they get just $7,000 over three years. That’s it. And that’s if they can find a lawyer who’s willing to go to court for that amount.
The NCGOP thinks that’s fair. Anything else is gold-digging.
They saved the best for last: “After trial lawyers and environmentalists funneled millions of dollars into Governor Cooper’s campaign accounts, it is clear to see where his loyalty lies.”
And thank God his loyalties are in the right place.
It’s still possible that the General Assembly will override the governor’s veto. The bill passed the House on a 74–42 vote and the Senate on a 30–19 vote. Both counts exceed the three-fifths majority needed for an override.