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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. On a related note, I offered the ICLU my cases against the BLE repeatedly, and sought their amici aid repeatedly as well. Crickets. Usually not even a response. I am guessing they do not do allegations of anti-Christian bias? No matter how glaring? I have posted on other links the amicus brief that did get filed (search this ezine, e.g., Kansas attorney), read the Thomas More Society brief to note what the ACLU ran from like vampires from garlic. An Examiner pledged to advance diversity and inclusion came right out on the record and demanded that I choose Man's law or God's law. I wonder, had I been asked to swear off Allah ... what result then, ICLU? Had I been found of bad character and fitness for advocating sexual deviance, what result then ICLU? Had I been lifetime banned for posting left of center statements denigrating the US Constitution, what result ICLU? Hey, we all know don't we? Rather Biased.

  2. It was mentioned in the article that there have been numerous CLE events to train attorneys on e-filing. I would like someone to provide a list of those events, because I have not seen any such events in east central Indiana, and since Hamilton County is one of the counties where e-filing is mandatory, one would expect some instruction in this area. Come on, people, give some instruction, not just applause!

  3. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

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  5. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

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