NC lawmakers want to shield factory farms from big damage payments to victims
Legislation moving through the North Carolina General Assembly would prevent people living near the state’s numerous factory farms from recovering more than token damages in civil lawsuits where the farm’s corporate owner is found responsible for harming them.
The proposal comes with such litigation already underway.
Under contracts with local growers, Murphy-Brown owns the hogs at about two-thirds of farms in North Carolina, the second-biggest hog-producing state after Iowa.
Despite the serious claims of harm documented by the plaintiffs, House Bill 467 and a companion measure, Senate Bill 460, would limit compensatory damages in such so-called "nuisance" lawsuits.
Environmental advocates blasted the legislation, with N.C. League of Conservation Voters (NCLCV) lobbyist Dan Crawford describing it as "nothing more than lawmakers putting a foreign-owned company ahead of the long-term health and safety of the very communities who have been forced to endure the harms of hog waste for decades."
On the Senate side, the legislation’s primary sponsors are Brent Jackson, who represents Duplin, Sampson and part of Johnston counties; Bill Rabon, who represents Bladen, Brunswick and Pender counties and a small part of New Hanover County; and Dan Bishop of Mecklenburg County.
In the last election cycle alone, Jackson — a member of the Senate’s agriculture committee and chair of the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Agriculture and Natural and Economic Resources — was the top legislative recipient of livestock industry money after Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, taking in $19,500 in contributions, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics’ FollowTheMoney.org database.
Jackson was also the top legislative recipient of contributions from Smithfield Foods, at $10,000.
On the House side, the bill’s primary sponsors are Reps. Jimmy Dixon, who represents parts of Duplin and Wayne counties; Ted Davis Jr. of New Hanover County; David Lewis of Harnett County; and John R. Bell IV, who represents parts of Craven, Greene, Lenoir and Wayne counties.
Bell, also an agriculture committee member, received $3,500 from the industry and $1,000 from Smithfield while Davis reportedly got $250 from Smithfield.