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Judge rules against residents in suit 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, N.C.-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 said 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 prepared statement.

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  • Great advice Indyman
    So Indyman your advice is get over farming being a fact of life? Then you're ok with immigration? Obamacare? That we elected a black president who was born in the U.S. not Kenya? Twice?
  • Mitt Romney
    Always remember, corporations are people, my friend. They have all the same rights as a person, including a religion. My proposal is, as a person AND a corporation (since it MUST go both ways) I get property tax, income tax, and sales tax breaks for my corporation (which is also me as a person). I am an equal corporation, which is also a person, and deserve all the same rights. If I want to dump my corporate waste on the ground, which happens to come out of a certain area on the back side of my body because I am also a person, I should be able to to that freely and untaxed. In fact, I should be given TIF money to do it. I just can't understand how corporations get special corporate rights, as well as the rights of a person, yet, people cannot get corporate rights, even though, per the Supreme Court, corporations are people, and people are corporations. Welcome to the new America.
  • right to farm means family farms not pig plants on a grand scale
    I think perhaps there is legal precedence here in that the laws were intended for family farms, not pig processing plants on a huge scale. There has to be a way to squash this judges judgment and overrule her dumb judgement. Perhaps she should be required to live in one of those neighbors houses for a month next to the farm to see how she likes it. She is there to protect the people, not the corporations.
  • here is the web site
    http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/engineer/facts/03-111.htm Corporate farms are not farms, they are indeed factories on a huge scale. The amount of waste and unhealthy smells are environmentally unsafe. If they want to do this, they should be forced to buy a boundary around their farm at a premium price to the homeowners and landowners that have to eat, sleep, and live in a cesspool of pig smells. Imagine living in a house that smells like a restroom all the time. Does the state really believe they should take the side of these corporate farms and not protect Indiana citizens. Perhaps justifiable they should force all the management of the farms to live on the farm itself and not live probably far away from there. Would be interesting to investigate the housing locations of those working at and managing the corporate farms.
  • No Excuse
    These horrid conditions may be "common" due to government officials "interests" in protecting factory farms. Common practices does not constitute what's humane let alone environmentally friendly.
  • Holy Crap!
    Cut/Paste is ineffective and inappropriate in a comment forum. Give us a link or a web address in the future. Thanks!
    • solution, put fumigators at the edge of his farm
      The answer to this is place special fumigators toremove or dissipate the smell from his farm, perhaps blowing a counter smell onto his farm that is nontoxic touche
    • Bad Product, Bad Environment
      Pork shouldn't be eaten, plain and simple. It's not good for you, it's an incomplete protein and has been proven again and again to be an unsafe product for consumption in the long term. Standard farms are no longer a simple "we're raising a few hogs here" type of operation, these industrial hog farms are deadly for EVERYONE, the air, the ground water everything ends up completely polluted and ruined for the next 50 years. I feel sorry for these people and they certainly have the right to a "Quality of Life" suit and this judge is about as fair as what comes out of the hogs when they've been fed corn.
    • We told you
      We told you the "right to farm" bills were written for corporate interests by the group ALEC, but did you listen? No. You went ahead and supported it all the way through. It's probably safe to say that the hog farm neighbors voted for the politician that voted for the bill and made it into law.
    • Valid Complaint
      If these residents were there long before the hog farms - "some for generations" - then I feel they have every right to be upset. They are folks who "grew up in the country" according to the article, so they are not new to this lifestyle. Those at the corporate level who decided to change operations from agricultural to a hog farm are the ones who should be held responsible. Perhaps these execs would like to purchase these residents' properties for their "weekend retreats" and see how their families and guests enjoy it.
    • The world according to Indyman
      In Indyman's world, if you live in the country you should shut-up and deal with anything a corporate farms decides to do. And I'm guessing your philosophy for people living in the city is to shut-up and deal with anything a corporate factory decides to do. We the Corporations of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union...
    • ugh
      Imagine if it smells that bad, how poor the quality of product coming out of these "farms" are? If you raise a hog in crap, crap is indeed what you will get. 20 years from now this place will have contaminated all of the groundwater...
    • There's a Difference Indyman
      Between family farmers and corporate ones such as this with nearly 200 THOUSAND hogs. I feel for the folks who live close by, but as another poster correctly said, you get what you vote for. Personal responsibility.
    • Not just farm odor
      These are not just farms that you drive by and smell a little manure for a minute or two. The air around these big corporate operations is unbearable--you have to cover your mouth and nose even while driving by at highway speed. I can't imagine living near one of them, and surely these residents are unable to sell the property they own. But corporations and profits trump everything in modern America.
      • Or is it better said welcome to Indiana where farmers in agricultural areas have the right to farm? If you choose to live in the country, you are going to have to deal with farming. Be it getting stuck behind a combine, dealing with the smell of fertilizer on the fields or having hog confinements. It is a fact of life.
        • Yuck
          Welcome to Republican controlled Indiana, where corporations have all the rights. Unfortunately the people of this state vote based upon Fox News, not upon what is best for them.

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        1. to mention the rest of Molly's experience- she served as Communications Director for the Indianapolis Department of Public Works and also did communications for the state. She's incredibly qualified for this role and has a real love for Indianapolis and Indiana. Best of luck to her!

        2. Shall we not demand the same scrutiny for law schools, med schools, heaven forbid, business schools, etc.? How many law school grads are servers? How many business start ups fail and how many business grads get low paying jobs because there are so few high paying positions available? Why does our legislature continue to demean public schools and give taxpayer dollars to charters and private schools, ($171 million last year), rather than investing in our community schools? We are on a course of disaster regarding our public school attitudes unless we change our thinking in a short time.

        3. I agree with the other reader's comment about the chunky tomato soup. I found myself wanting a breadstick to dip into it. It tasted more like a marinara sauce; I couldn't eat it as a soup. In general, I liked the place... but doubt that I'll frequent it once the novelty wears off.

        4. The Indiana toll road used to have some of the cleanest bathrooms you could find on the road. After the lease they went downhill quickly. While not the grossest you'll see, they hover a bit below average. Am not sure if this is indicative of the entire deal or merely a portion of it. But the goals of anyone taking over the lease will always be at odds. The fewer repairs they make, the more money they earn since they have a virtual monopoly on travel from Cleveland to Chicago. So they only comply to satisfy the rules. It's hard to hand public works over to private enterprise. The incentives are misaligned. In true competition, you'd have multiple roads, each build by different companies motivated to make theirs more attractive. Working to attract customers is very different than working to maximize profit on people who have no choice but to choose your road. Of course, we all know two roads would be even more ridiculous.

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