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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. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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