Hog Industry Faces Historic Legal Challenge in North Carolina

Wall Street Journal writer Valerie Bauerlein reported yesterday that, “The linchpin of 500 legal complaints against Chinese-owned pork giant Smithfield Foods Inc. headed to federal court Tuesday, part of a historic challenge to North Carolina’s $2.9 billion hog industry.

“A Raleigh-based jury will determine whether a 4,700-hog farm run by a Smithfield contractor, with open pools of manure, emits enough odor and sprayed liquid waste to be considered a nuisance to a neighboring couple.

“Lawyers representing Beulaville residents Elvis and Vonnie Williams said in court filings that Smithfield is ‘a large enterprise with the ability to reduce and end the nuisance.’ They said the smell has hurt the couple’s ‘ability to enjoy family gatherings, barbecues, outdoor chores, playing with children outside, and doing yardwork.'”

The Journal article stated that, “Smithfield, a Smithfield, Va., unit of Chinese pork producer WH Group Ltd., said its farm complies with local, state and federal environmental regulations. Chief Executive Ken Sullivan said it is wrong to penalize owners for things like noise and smell, which go hand in hand with running a farm.

“‘Today, it’s hog farms. What about chicken farms? The turkey guys? Grain farmers?’ Mr. Sullivan said in an interview. ‘We’ve got to decide as a society how food is produced.'”

Yesterday’s article added, “The Williamses’ case is one of a handful of bellwether trials that will help determine how hundreds of other complaints against Smithfield will be handled.

“In the first trial last month, a Raleigh jury in U.S. District Court awarded $50 million to 10 families living near a Smithfield contract farm in neighboring Bladen County. The judge subsequently lowered the settlement to $3 million, to comply with a state statute capping punitive damages.”

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