Litigation is rapidly becoming strategy for citizens fighting factory farms. The reason that citizens are turning to the court system is that federal, state and local governments are not doing enough to regulate pollution from these large-scale operations.
In Missouri, between 2000 and early 2008, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources received 1,700 complaints about odor emanating from hog Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO’s). The state has done virtually nothing in response to those complaints – citing the biggest offender only ten times for emitting excess odor and failed to even investigate odor complaints over 900 times in eight years.1
Due to their dissatisfaction with the regulatory process, people from across the country have been forced to sue for nuisance damages, claiming respiratory and digestive problems, among others, related to large industrial animal operations. Many of these residents grew up on farms that have been in their families for generations, often over one hundred years, and are accustomed to the odors the come from what used to be the typical livestock operation. Those operations are dwarfed by the new industrial CAFOs where the waste of hundreds of thousands of hogs flow into sewage lagoons that are larger than multiple football fields. Millions of gallons of that waste will later be sprayed from dawn to dusk, and beyond onto fields, often just across the street from neighbors’ homes.
States such as Missouri welcomed these large industrial operations against the opposition of the neighbors. Once the CAFOs commenced operation the state lawmakers and regulators have often turned a blind eye to the misdeeds of the CAFO operators.
In the 1990s there were two lawsuits filed in the U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri seeking enforcement of the Federal Clean Water and Clean Air Acts.2 Those cases resulted in a Consent Decree against the operators of the hog CAFOs, but did not get any support from the Bush Administration. That Administration made it clear that it would not support any similar lawsuits in the future.
Therefore, neighbors and their attorneys have increasingly turned to filing lawsuits in state courts, alleging that the CAFO odors, emissions of hazardous substances, and discharge of polluted waste into local streams and groundwater prevent neighbors from enjoying their homes and property in the manner to which they are entitled. Such suits have been filed in Missouri, Iowa, Utah, North Carolina, Illinois and Indiana, among other states.
Gavin Off. What’s that Smell? Neighbors complain that factory hog farms are ruining their ways of life
. Columbia Missourian, January 2, 2008.
2 Citizens Legal Environmental Action Network, Inc. (“CLEAN”), et al. v. Premium Standard Farms, Inc., Case No. 97-6073-CV-SJ-6 filed in the Western District of Missouri; Citizens Legal Environmental Action Network, Inc. (“CLEAN”), et al. v. Continental Grain Co., Case No. 98- 6099-CV-SJ-6.