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Judge rules against residents in lawsuits over hog smell

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A judge has ruled state law protects four large hog farms from lawsuits filed by residents of an eastern Indiana county who complained about waste and foul smells from their operations.

Special Judge Marianne Vorhees found that Indiana's right-to-farm law is constitutional and the residents didn't present evidence needed to allow the lawsuits to proceed against the Randolph County farms run by Goldsboro, North Carolina-based Maxwell Foods, The Star Press of Muncie reported.

The four farms all started hog production in 2007 or 2008 — and the county between Muncie and the Indiana-Ohio state line has seen its number of hogs more than triple in five years to nearly 178,000 in 2012, according the to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Rich Hailey, an attorney representing those who filed the lawsuits, said an appeal of the judge's ruling is likely.

"These are industrialized facilities. They are not family farms," he said. "The uncontroverted truth is all the plaintiffs were living in those areas first (before the hog operations). Many had owned these properties for generations. These are people who grew up in the country. One day they looked out and had 4,000 to 8,000 hogs putting out 3 million gallons of untreated waste."

The lawsuits accuse Maxwell and other defendants of allowing hog waste to accumulate and "noxious fumes and odors to discharge from and be sensed beyond the boundaries of their property."

Indiana's right-to-farm law protects the rights of farmers to use "generally accepted" practices, including "the use of ever-changing technology."

Vorhees ruled that the law covered Maxwell Foods since the properties had been used continuously as farms since at least the 1950s and that a switch from crop production to hog production "does not constitute a significant change."

Vorhees called the suit can proceed, "only if they produce evidence that defendants were negligent, and defendants' negligence was the cause of the odors," Vorhees wrote, adding that the residents admitted they had no such evidence.

Joe Baldwin, operations manager for Maxwell Farms, said its operations are common among Midwestern hog producers.

"We find it unfortunate that a few individuals have attempted to discredit our industry despite the fact that Maxwell Farms maintains an excellent environmental record in the state of Indiana and establishes high standards that our contract grower families are expected to meet," he said in a statement.

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  • Hogs = Corn?
    "...a switch from crop production to hog production "does not constitute a significant change."??? REALLY?!?! Any judge that cannot see a significant difference between a plant and an animal needs to find another line of work.

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  1. Don't we have bigger issues to concern ourselves with?

  2. Anyone who takes the time to study disciplinary and bar admission cases in Indiana ... much of which is, as a matter of course and by intent, off the record, would have a very difficult time drawing lines that did not take into account things which are not supposed to matter, such as affiliations, associations, associates and the like. Justice Hoosier style is a far departure than what issues in most other parts of North America. (More like Central America, in fact.) See, e.g., http://www.theindianalawyer.com/indiana-attorney-illegally-practicing-in-florida-suspended-for-18-months/PARAMS/article/42200 When while the Indiana court system end the cruel practice of killing prophets of due process and those advocating for blind justice?

  3. Wouldn't this call for an investigation of Government corruption? Chief Justice Loretta Rush, wrote that the case warranted the high court’s review because the method the Indiana Court of Appeals used to reach its decision was “a significant departure from the law.” Specifically, David wrote that the appellate panel ruled after reweighing of the evidence, which is NOT permissible at the appellate level. **But yet, they look the other way while an innocent child was taken by a loving mother who did nothing wrong"

  4. Different rules for different folks....

  5. I would strongly suggest anyone seeking mediation check the experience of the mediator. There are retired judges who decide to become mediators. Their training and experience is in making rulings which is not the point of mediation.

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