Indiana Farmers Union Joins Fight Against Noxious 8,000-Hog Agribusiness Operation

The state's Right to Farm laws protect massive agribusiness at the expense of the community and family farms, the lawsuit argues.
John Gress/Reuters

The Indiana Farmers Union has filed a friend of the court brief to petition the state’s top court to reconsider a lawsuit by homeowners against a massive agribusiness operation with 8,000 hogs.

The operation has been largely protected from any penalties because of controversial Indiana Right to Farm laws. The state’s Right to Farm Act was initially approved to protect farmers from nuisance lawsuits from people buying homes near farms and then complaining about the farm operations. But now, the suit argues, that law and a companion statute are being used by a massive agribusiness operation to pollute and disrupt with impunity. “Noxious gases” from the operation are not “farm smells; they are factory pollution,” the suit claims.

Homeowners in Hendricks County, just west of Indianapolis, are alleging that the odors and massive amounts of waste from the concentrated animal feeding operation are polluting the region and threatening their health and wellbeing. Cement tanks on the operation hold thousands of gallons of urine and feces, The Indianapolis Star reported. Air emissions from large farming operations are largely exempt from environmental regulations, even though some studies have shown increased respiratory disease in people who live nearby, according to the newspaper.

The Indiana Court of Appeals earlier this year ruled against the plaintiffs, saying the agribusiness has a right to the carry out the operation because the area had been farmed for decades — even though the hog operation began only six years ago. The defendants include farming relatives of two of the homeowners, their company 4/9 Livestock and Co-Alliance, a large agriculture supply company.

Now plaintiffs — with the support of the farmers union as well as Family Farm Action, Public Justice and Food & Water Watch— are petitioning the Indiana Supreme Court to hear the case.

The groups said in a statement Tuesday provided to HuffPost that the Right to Farm laws are “undermining, rather than protecting,” Indiana’s “rural character” by shielding massive “industrial facilities.”

Indiana’s Right to Farm Act “essentially strips independent farmers and rural residents of any sort of redress against polluting concentrated animal feeding operations. These are not farms; these are industrial facilities that produce huge profits that often go out of state and into the pockets of multinational agribusiness monopolies,” the statement added.

“Indiana’s farmers and rural communities are left holding the bag —in the form of polluted air and water that these operations leave behind.”

The director of the Indiana Agricultural Law Foundation, which filed amicus briefs on behalf of the hog operation, hailed the appellate decision as a “pretty clear application” of the Right to Farm Act and said the hog operation followed legal requirements. The foundation was established by the Indiana Farm Bureau and the Indiana Pork Producers Association.

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