Recently (March 4, 2010) a major class-action lawsuit was won for small family farmers against CAFOs on the grounds of nuisance and environmental degradation. Property values will plummet, some down to zero, near many of the larger operations. Clearly, this is a victory for the small farmers and a major blow against corporate, factory farming. Not surprising, the story did not make much noise in the media or the corporate farming friend, the Farm Bureau and its nationally syndicated propaganda radio.– Augie
Seeger Weiss brought home another victory against giant agro-business Premium Standard Farms, when a Missouri jury awarded $11.05 million to the 15 neighboring owners of small farms today. Co-founder Stephen A. Weiss has led the charge against these giant factory farms, whose careless and illegal disposal of waste products degrades the air and land around them. As co-lead counsel for the farmers’ whose lives and livelihoods had been handicapped by overpowering hog odors, Mr. Weiss proved to the jury, seated in Jackson County, Missouri, that Premium Standard Farms had failed to sufficiently address the problem in the 11 years since the Missouri Attorney General issued an order to do so. This verdict is the largest monetary award against a hog farm in an odor nuisance case.
The Berlin, Missouri factory farm processes roughly 200,000 hogs every year and houses about 80,000 at any given time. Nationwide, the average hog farm houses only 5,000 animals per year. These local farmers are no strangers to the realities of livestock and agriculture, but the staggering mass of bodies and waste contained within the Premium Standard hog farm overwhelmed them. The plaintiffs, some of whom have owned their farms for well over 100 years and spanning five generations, alleged that relentless and extreme odors emanating from defendants’ finishing farm – known as concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs – created an unreasonable nuisance. Family members testified at trial that the smell was intense enough to prevent them from venturing outdoors on many days.
Law firms The Middleton Firm, Seeger Weiss LLP and the Speer Law Firm represented the seven households, who filed their case in 2002. After hearing nearly 5 weeks of evidence centering on defendants’ land application of massive quantities of liquid hog manure, maintenance of multiple-acre wastewater lagoons, and other odor-producing activities at the Homan farm inGentry County, MO, the 12-person jury agreed. Their verdict was delivered on March 4, 2010, awarding nearly $1 million to each of the 13 farmers who lived next to the Premium Standard facility in Berlin with an another $325 thousand for two additional plaintiffs.