With farmers keeping an eye on nuisance lawsuits, Congressman David Rouzer is showing his support for agricultural producers.
Rouzer visited the Clinton-Sampson Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday to address farming, lawsuits and other legislative issues. The informal visit was part of a nine-day tour with stops in every county that makes up North Carolina’s 7th Congressional District, which is represented by Rouzer.
“That’s an issue that pinpoints and highlights the fact that judges can make you or break you,” Rouzer said about multi-million dollar lawsuits against hog producers. “A good judge versus a bad judge, that’s the difference between having a great country and having one that gets off the rails really quick.”
Rouzer added that presidential elections are important since the winners have a major role in the selection process of judges on the Supreme Court, then hit on the judicial system at lower levels.
“You have to understand the plaintiffs played a tough game,” Rouzer said. “They couldn’t get their way with the state courts so they found an angle and pursued this in federal court, then found the right judge to help them on the way.”
As he continued about the lawsuits, he believes a future may favor farmers if the cases are overturned.
“The problem is all the damage that’s been done in the interim,” he said. “At the federal level, we’re looking at legislation, considering it very strongly. We‘ve got the appropriate folks in D.C. looking at the ins and outs in terms of what’s the best bill to put forward to prevent these type of lawsuits moving forward.”
If farmers followed guidelines and regulations with farmers, Rouzer said there should be a safe harbor for growers when it comes to lawsuits. Rouzer said legislation for protection at the federal level is a work in progress and “nothing happens easily in Washington.”
“It’s my hope that we can have something figured out by the end of the year and have something signed into law as part of the appropriations measure to address the nuisance suits moving forward,” Rouzer said.
To address the matter, Rouzer recently hosted a roundtable event in Raleigh with agriculture and political leaders from around the United States. One of the leaders present included Michael Conaway, chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture. Rouzer said Conaway was very engaged in the nuisance matter.
“Part of the method of the madness there is to get all the right people in the room and make sure they understood the gravity of the situation,” he said. “This is not just a pork industry issue, this is not just a North Carolina issue — this is agriculture across the board. This is the United States.”
Rouzer was recently selected to join a committee designed to form a final version of the farm bill and was appointed by House Speaker Paul Ryan along with Conaway. Along with other legislators, he’s working on changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Rouzer said it has big impact on 7th Congressional District, since agriculture plays a major role.
“I joke that I represent a lot of hogs, turkeys and chickens in addition to people,” Rouzer said about impact of farming in the area. “It’s quite important for the economy and this area, as we all know.”
During the event, Rouzer addressed a variety of topics. Some of the others included tax reform, the opioid epidemic, human trafficking and attracting people to rural communities, while staying in touch with large urban cities.
Allison M. Strickland, executive director of the Clinton-Sampson Chamber of Commerce, appreciated the visit of Rouzer and spending time with local agriculture farmers and professionals. About 40 people attended.
“The Clinton-Sampson Chamber of Commerce stands in support of North Carolina agriculture and farm families that make it possible,” Strickland stated on behalf of the organization. “We value the hard work and dedication that generations of families have put forth to provide for our community. We are proud of the local farmers who contribute endlessly to our rural community.”