Smithfield ordered to pay $50 million for hog farm nuisance

Photo: Alex Boerner/INDY Week

Your Upper Neuse Riverkeeper, Matthew Starr, posted to Facebook on Sunday, “A huge victory against pollution from industrial animal agriculture in North Carolina. The millions in damages Smithfield Foods must pay would be more than enough to invest in safer, more sustainable waste management technology—it is cheaper for industry to not pollute!”

Last week a federal jury awarded “more than $50 million in damages to neighbors of an industrial hog operation found responsible for intense smells, noise and other disturbances so bad that people couldn’t enjoy their rural homes,” reports the Fayetteville Observer (read the full article here, or read the INDY Week’s article here.) It is important to note that the lawsuit was filed against Murphy-Brown LLC, a subsidiary of Chinese-owned Smithfield Foods, not the farmer, because it’s the company’s waste management practices that are directly harming nearby homeowners.

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) are a large source of pollution along the Neuse, prompting American Rivers to name the Neuse one of America’s most endangered rivers in 2017. After Hurricane Matthew caused extreme flooding along the Neuse River basin in 2016, Riverkeeper Starr worked with legislators to help fund the Swine Buyout Program, which provides financial incentives to farmers who remove their hog operations from the floodplain.

CAFOs are not only contributing to water pollution, they are also directly impacting their neighbors, who in many cases are not able to pick up and move out of the way of industrial agriculture. We are happy the jury saw fit in this case to adequately compensate those neighbors for the toll this industry has taken on them, and we applaud this victory for environmental justice.