Opinion: Farming Lawsuits Have Potential to Become Debilitating to North Carolina and US
By Erin Smith
The lawsuits against hog farmers in North Carolina that have resulted in record damage awards have many economists, farmers and residents alarmed. Everyone should be alarmed with the potential for the loss of many farms.
According to the Pacific Standard Magazine, hog farms in North Carolina generated $2.9 billion while hog farms in Iowa generated $6.8 million.
The lawsuits don’t just stop in North Carolina. They are reaching into other states and impacting farmers all over the United States. In May 2018, Iowa residents filed a lawsuit against the State of Iowa over air emissions from industrial hog farms.
The concerns with these lawsuits is the fact that some of the hog farms involved have not received any environmental citations nor have any violations been found when the farms were inspected by state regulators. Yet, they are being subjected to lawsuits claiming their farms are a nuisance and, if a jury determines the farm to be a nuisance, the farm is being forced to shut down, though they did nothing wrong.
There are also concerns about the lawsuits potentially spreading to other forms of livestock production such as poultry and beef cattle. Some farmers have discussed the possibility of selling their operations rather than face an uncertain future where lawsuits are concerned.
People are beginning to question where will the United States obtain food supplies if all of the farms are shut down. Some people say we should simply begin importing our food from other countries. While that sounds like a reasonable solution, it really is not a viable option. Many countries do not utilize the same standards the United States does to process their meats and other foods.
The United States is the largest producer of milk, pork, chicken, and beef in the world, according to Media Max Network. China leads the world in the production of rice. The United States exports more than $149 billion worth of agricultural products worldwide. So what happens when all of the farms here in the United States are closed?
These nuisance lawsuits are not only costly to the plaintiff and defendant, but they are also costly to the consumers and have far reaching impacts that many people have not stopped to consider.
Not only do the loss of farms impact the farm families and their immediate laborers, there are the feed mills who supply the feed for the livestock. There are the truck drivers who drive the feed and grain trucks as well as the livestock trucks hauling the animals to market. As the number of farms are reduced, these industries will have no choice but to reduce production and cut back on the number of employees they have.
There are the veterinary supply companies who supply medicines and vitamins needed to keep the animals healthy. There are researchers who are always seeking better ways to raise livestock and to improve on the animals’ health.
The closure of our farms won’t just affect farmers and a few grocery stores in the United States. It will have a global impact as far as the availability of certain food products. It will clearly have a direct impact on the United States’ economy not to mention allied industries.
Farm Aid notes a 30 percent increase in calls to their farmer hotline for assistance over the past year. The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia, recently retracted their findings that the suicide rate among farmers and agricultural labor is the highest among all labor groups. The CDC claimed the data used to arrive at the figures in the report were flawed. According to Farm Aid, there is reason to believe there may actually be validity in the CDC’s now retracted figures.
As food supplies become more scarce in the United States and have to be imported, the prices the consumers will pay will increase.
Imagine for a minute, if you can, driving through areas that were once rural and filled with corn crops, cattle, vegetable crops such as tomatoes and peppers, that now stand barren. Imagine countries using food supplies as a method to leverage political gains over the United States.
The next time you admire a package of pork chops or prepare bacon for a meal, imagine just for a moment, there are no more farms. What then?