The third-largest U.S. poultry processor lost at least 8 percent of its chickens in North Carolina due to flooding from Hurricane Florence, and expects lower meat production through December as a result. Sanderson Farms was the first meat processor to announce livestock losses: 1.7 million chickens.
At least eight manure lagoons in hog-heavy southeastern North Carolina were breached, flooded or "overtopped" due to relentless rainfall from Hurricane Florence and flooding that is expected to continue for days, said a state official on Monday. The North Carolina Pork Council, a farm group, said "we remain concerned about the the potential impact of these record-shattering floods."
Hurricane Florence will pour 15 to 25 inches of rain onto the Carolinas when it reaches land on Thursday, with up to 35 inches in some places, according to the National Hurricane Center. The North Carolina hog industry says it survived Hurricane Matthew with minimal losses in October 2016 and asserts it is prepared for Florence.
Although leaders of two national farm groups called for a federal shield to protect farmers from lawsuits by neighbors, chairman Chuck Grassley of the Senate Judiciary Committee said on Tuesday that states should decide land use questions. "At least at first blush, based upon states' rights—I could be maybe convinced otherwise—right now, I'd have to stick to what is a pretty general philosophy that I have on being against federal land use, both from the standpoint of what can be done and what can't be done," said Grassley, from Iowa, the top hog and egg-producing state.
Two national farm leaders called for federal protection from lawsuits that hold farmers liable for the noise and foul odors of increasingly large-scale agricultural production. "It is time for our elected leaders to step up and stop this madness," said Howard Hill, speaking for U.S. hog farmers and taking aim at lawsuits that allege North Carolina hog farms are nuisances to their neighbors. "The regulations need to be on the trial lawyers," said president Zippy Duvall of the American Farm Bureau Federation.
A federal jury awarded six neighbors of industrial hog farms in North Carolina $473.5 million in damages on Friday. The lawsuit is the third so far on the waste-management practices of Smithfield-associated hog farms in the state. Earlier verdicts have awarded plaintiffs about $75 million.
On Wednesday, the North Carolina General Assembly overrode Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto to pass into law the Farm Act, which expands the state’s right-to-farm law. The law now greatly restricts farm neighbors’ ability to bring nuisance lawsuits against farm operations for air, water, and soil pollution.
Governor Roy Cooper vetoed a controversial bill that would have made it nearly impossible for neighbors of factory farms to sue farming operations for negative quality of life and health outcomes associated with living near large livestock confinements.
Several national and local advocacy groups are calling on North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper to veto a bill that would greatly restrict the public's ability to sue large-scale animal farms over negative health and environmental effects. The state general assembly passed the bill on Friday.