Commissioner Steve Troxler: National Ag Leaders Roundtable

The ongoing nuisance lawsuits against hog production in North Carolina were the topic of discussion of a National Agriculture Leaders Roundtable hosted by Congressman David Rouzer. Ag leaders from across the country, including Congressman Thom Tillis, American Farm Bureau president Zippy Duvall, and Commissioners of Agriculture from Delaware, Georgia, South Carolina, and Texas, participated in the session last Friday.

  • We had a really good meeting last Friday that focused on the potential implications of these nuisance lawsuits against hog production.
  • The event was hosted by Congressman David Rouzer and was attended by Congressman Thom Tillis, American Farm Bureau president Zippy Duvall, Commissioners of Agriculture from Delaware, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas, USDA Undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey, among many others.
  • I was glad to see this issue getting national attention, because I can assure you these lawsuits will have national implications as they set an incredibly dangerous precedent.
  • I also believe this is an issue that warrants review at a national level because food security is a national concern. We don’t ever want to become a nation that relies on another country for its food.
  • That puts us at great risk.
  • While we were holding the session, a jury came back with a judgement against Smithfield Food. It was the largest so far, which was especially disappointing. ($23.5 million in compensatory damages, $450 in punitive damages; reduced under state law to $94 million.)
  • I would liken this ongoing litigation of hog production to a blight that could cripple farm production in this state and others across the country.
  • One big problem is the use of the term nuisance. I’d say just about anything could be a nuisance to someone at any point in time.
  • Congressman Rouzer likened it to beauty – it is in the eye of the beholder.
  • Zippy Duvall said as a farm boy, a nuisance is living in the middle of Washington D.C.
  • And, that’s the concern. Where does it stop? Does it stop when someone successfully puts the last farm out of business?
  • I would call agricultural production anything but a nuisance. In my mind and in the mind of many of the attendees to the event Friday, it is a blessing. But it is important to remember that today these lawsuits are leveled at hog farms, but tomorrow it could be a cattle operation, a peanut farm or a catfish farm.
  • What people seem to forget is that these farms and farmers that are part of these lawsuits are the same ones that are producing the food we all enjoy three times a day.
  • We are seeing our agriculture community and its supporters rise up and come together on this issue, and rightfully so. We can no longer sit back and let others attack our industry. It is important we help consumers understand that food comes from a farm and not a grocery store shelf.
  • I am hopeful that we will see the decisions overturned on appeal and I am hopeful we will see an end to this current attack on agriculture.