A bill protecting livestock farmers from lawsuits is now law, following an override of a veto by Gov. Roy Cooper, who supported residents complaining about nuisances such as stenches coming from facilities.
Legislators in the North Carolina House voted 74 to 45 to overrule Cooper’s decision for the 2018 Farm Act, or Senate Bill 711, which would make various changes to the agriculture laws.
Sen. Brent Jackson of Sampson County, the chief sponsor of the bill, released a statement after the decision, which passed the Senate with bipartisan support.
“Overriding this veto and correcting Gov. Cooper’s unwise decision sends the clear message to our family farmers and rural communities that they have a voice in the legislature and that this General Assembly intends to give them the respect they deserve,” Jackson stated. “This was never a partisan issue or about politics, but about doing what is right, and I am glad we had bipartisan support in both chambers as we stand up for our farmers.”
Before the decision, Cooper stated that agriculture was vital to state’s economy, but he added that property rights are important as well.
“North Carolina’s nuisance laws can help allow generations of families to enjoy their homes and land without fear for their health and safety,” Cooper stated during his veto message. “Those same laws stopped the Tennessee Valley Authority from pumping air pollution into our mountains.”
He added that laws must be balanced for businesses and property owners.
“Giving one industry special treatment at the expense of its neighbors is unfair,” Cooper said.
Jackson’s office reiterated that the “Farm Acts puts the teeth back into the law to give our family farmers the protections the legislature has intended since passing the right to farm in 1979. This legislation comes in response to the hundreds of politically motivated and frivolous lawsuits that have threatened to bankrupt many farmers.”
S.B. 711 was supported by agribusiness industry after lawsuits filed against pork producers from residents uncomfortable with odors from facilities.
Following the Wednesday decision, the Environmental Defense Fund released a statement regarding the decision. David Kelly, senior manager for N.C. Public Affairs said the farm bill takes North Carolina backwards.
“It strips families of the ability to defend their rights to clean air, clean water and a healthy place to live and work,” Kelly said.
Kelly added that progress has been made alongside farmers, agriculture groups and agribusinesses toward solutions to advance the agricultural economy and protect natural resources and public health. The organization believes the nuisance provisions in Senate Bill 711 will only serve to further divide communities and undermine this progress.
“We are deeply troubled by today’s outcome, but also profoundly grateful for the leadership of the Governor and state legislators from both sides of the aisle who, in opposing this bill, demonstrated their commitment to protecting the rights of all North Carolinians.”