In a blow to environmentalists and critics of the commercial hog farming industry, the N.C. Senate voted 30–18 this afternoon to override Governor Cooper's veto of House Bill 467
. The controversial bill would limit liability in nuisance cases for agricultural and forestry operations, including hog farms.
Yesterday, the House voted 74–40
, largely along party lines, in favor of the override (spoiler alert: Republicans voted for it).
As the INDY
reported, HB 467 restricts the amount of money property owners can collect in nuisance lawsuits filed against agricultural operations. Now that it is law, it will essentially cap the damages property owners can collect in nuisance lawsuits at the fair market value of their property, which critics point out is often made lower by the presence of those commercial farms.
the bill last week, shortly after lawyers representing hundreds of plaintiffs involved in twenty-six federal lawsuits against Murphy-Brown LLC, the hog division of Smithfield Foods, submitted new evidence
showing that fecal matter from the hog operations has wound up outside of homes and has likely ended up in their homes and even on their food.
Senator Brent Jackson, R-Sampson, the sponsor of the Senate companion
bill, who has received more than $130,000
in campaign contributions from the commercial hog farming industry, reacted to the news with a glowing statement: "I am incredibly pleased to that this bill providing legal certainty to family farmers and the thousands of North Carolinians who earn their living in the agricultural industry is now law," he wrote. "This is a victory for farmworkers and our rural communities."
The NC Pork Council, which has contributed heavily to state Republicans, struck
a similarly celebratory tone.
"Farmers across our state are grateful that the Senate has acted to override the Gov. Cooper veto to provide them more certainty and protection from predatory lawyers. The votes this week in the House and Senate, by members of both political parties, sent a clear message that lawmakers support agriculture and its unique role in providing food to families."
In addition to the Pork Council, the supporters of HB 467, including House sponsor Representative Jimmy Dixon (who has received
more than $115,000 in campaign contributions from Big Pork), have consistently argued that the legislation is intended to protect rural family farmers from greedy "out of state" attorneys. However, the twenty-six federal lawsuits at the heart of much of the debate were filed by a North Carolina-based law firm against a $14 billion Chinese-owned multinational corporation on behalf of mostly low-income African-American plaintiffs.