Angry neighbours who have sued large-scale hog farms in North Carolina are winning multi-million-dollar court awards.
In the most recent case, Smithfield Foods has to pay six neighbours $94 million US.
It was the third of 26 lawsuits; there are 23 against Smthfield barns still in progress.
The court found Smithfield guilty for “unreasonable nuisances they suffered from odors, flies and rumbling trucks.”
A federal jury placed the fine at $473.5 million to six neighbours of pig farms, but state law that sets limits reduced that to $94 million.
When the hog barns were being built decades ago, Smithfield and the federal and state governments announced odours research worth millions. Most went to university research teams.
At the same time, the Ontario government also began funding University of Guelph researchers to find measures to reduce odours and neighbours’ complaints.
At the time I was a member of the Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario (ARIO) and the civil servant who was out liaison with the ministry of agriculture recommended that the ARIO call for research at the University of Guelph.
I suggested this was foolish since so much more was being spent in the United States and we could copy anything good they found. What we could do, I said, was fund a Master's degree student at Wilfrid Laurier University's school of social work to talk to neighbours where these big hog barns were going to be sited and find out what could be done to improve relations between the hog farmers and their neighbours.
I still think that would have been useful and would not have cost much.
But there was such a cozy relationship with the University of Guelph that funding a student at another university, especially one with no agriculture courses, was not going to happen.