Iowa Senate Passes Bill that Limits Livestock Nuisance Lawsuits

Des Moines Register writer William Petroski reported this week that, “The Iowa Senate passed a bill Tuesday aimed at limiting lawsuit damages in cases filed by unhappy neighbors against livestock producers.

Senate File 447 allows for an affirmative defense to be raised when an animal feeding operation is alleged to be a public or private nuisance or otherwise interfere with a person’s enjoyment of life or property. The legislation suggests the public interest is served by preserving and encouraging responsible animal agricultural production. The affirmative defense could be raised regardless of the established date of operation or expansion of an animal feeding operation.

The affirmative defense limits compensatory damages, as opposed to punitive damages, and specifies three categories of awards.”

The Register article noted that, “Sen. Dan Zumbach, R-Ryan, an eastern Iowa farmer who chairs the Iowa Senate Agriculture Committee, said the legislation is intended to protect animal agriculture, which provides 160,000 jobs in Iowa and generates $38 billion annually in economic impact. The measure, which heads to the House, was approved on a 31-18 vote, with two Democrats joining Republicans in supporting the measure.”

Mr. Petroski added that, “Zumbach passionately defended the bill in his closing remarks, saying it protect ‘good actors‘ who farm responsibly. ‘It has no protections for bad actors at all. They can still be sued if there is a nuisance, but it will be in a fair and equitable way,’ he said.”

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