Feedlot nuisance law unfair to communities

At what point does corporate influence take precedence over public safety and well-being?

The issue of corporate and factory farming is one of the most controversial facing the rural U.S. today. Corporate farms bring down prices, provide jobs and are more efficient than family farms. But there are many detrimental effects of corporate farms, such as adverse environmental practices and health effects and their tendency to drive family farms out of business.

As a result of operations, it is necessary for some factory farms to have feedlots. A feedlot, as defined by the Legislature, is a “building or combination of lots and buildings intended for the confined feeding, breeding, raising or holding of animals and specifically designed as a confinement area in which manure may accumulate or vegetative cover cannot be maintained.” At issue is Senate File 2866, which would prevent public nuisance lawsuits from being filed against feedlots.

At what point does corporate influence take precedence over public safety and well-being? If the bill is made law, a plaintiff will not have the ability to say a feedlot is a nuisance after two years. Additionally, the old exceptions to this privilege – where a feedlot operator is negligent, causes injury or threat of injury to health or safety, or pollutes the water or land – have been removed. The bill is now moving through the Senate and appears to be a gift to corporate farming and a lessening of landowners’ rights as well as a threat to their safety.

Granted, excessive lawsuits could bring agricultural operations feedlots to their knees. In the end the state is making it impossible to sue a feedlot unless the state says it is OK through legislative or administrative regulation. Small decisions such as these are better left to judges in courts rather than the Legislature; but under this bill, instead of judges determining when a feedlot has become a nuisance, the Legislature and administrative agencies will hold the keys to all the courtroom doors.