Nearly 600 residents of eastern North Carolina filed farm nuisance disputes last month in Wake County – notifying Smithfield Foods and its subsidiary Murphy-Brown that they plan to file lawsuits charging foul smell and pollution from farms has adversely affected their properties. The requests contain allegations of nuisance from 59 farms owned and operated by the company’s subsidiaries or independent farmers under contract with Murphy-Brown. Under state law – mediation of a farm nuisance dispute is generally required before a lawsuit may be filed – unless mediation is waived by all parties. Murphy-Brown and pork officials are standing behind their environmental management practices. In fact – Director of Government Relations and Public Affairs for Murphy-Brown Don Butler says they have an unwavering commitment to environmental stewardship. He says their track record shows they have been diligent in their practices. Over the last decade – Butler says the pork industry has a sterling record – Murphy-Brown specifically.
According to Butler – Murphy-Brown was the first livestock organization to get ISO 14001 certification. He notes it’s internationally recognized as a gold standard and is woven into the fabric of everything they do. Butler says Murphy-Brown has had zero notices of violation on any of the farms targeted by the prelitigation mediation notices for three years running.
At the North Carolina Pork Council – Deborah Johnson says North Carolina farmers work hard every day to comply with laws and regulations operating their farms. Johnson says formal complaints against Smithfield and Murphy-Brown are troubling in many respects. She asks who will be targeted for legal action next – another group of hog farmers or other livestock or poultry farmers? Johnson says all in agriculture and all dependent on agriculture need to pay attention to what’s happening in North Carolina.