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Right to Farm Act bars CAFO nuisance claim, appeals court rules

April 30, 2013

A Gibson County farmer may not bring a nuisance claim against a neighboring dairy that dramatically expanded its operations to what he called a “factory-like ‘mega-farm,’” the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

The panel unanimously affirmed Gibson Circuit Judge Earl G. Penrod’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants in Glenn Parker, As Trustee Under the Revocable Declaration of Trust Agreement of Glenn Parker, Individually and Phyllis C. Parker, Individually v. Obert's Legacy Dairy, LLC, 26A05-1209-PL-450.  

The case pitted family interests that have owned neighboring farms in Fort Branch for generations, the Parkers farming there since the 1930s and the Oberts since the 1830s. In 2010, the Oberts began a permitted 750-cow confined animal feeding operation granted by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management that was closer to the Parkers’ residence.

The trial court granted summary judgment on the Parkers’ nuisance argument that the CAFO produced offensive odors and devalued their property. The dairy claimed Indiana’s Right to Farm Act, I.C. 32-30-6-9, bars such actions on existing farms, and the trial court agreed.

The Parkers were unable to convince the appellate judges that the conversion of former cropland to a CAFO represented “a significant change in the type of operation” that would permit a nuisance claim.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court in a 12-page order. “It is clear that the Act insulates the Oberts’ expansion of their dairy farm from nuisance suits under these circumstances. In sum, we affirm the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the Dairy,” Judge Patricia Riley wrote for the court.
 

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