Overriding Veto of CAFO Bill Would Dump On Rights of 270,000 North Carolinians

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For Immediate Release: 
Tuesday, May 9, 2017

WASHINGTON The long-held property rights of hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians are at stake in the latest round of the ongoing battle between state lawmakers and Gov. Roy Cooper.

The issue this time is pig manure. And the bill in question could threaten these 270,000 North Carolinians’ rights.

Last week Cooper vetoed legislation that would have shielded big hog farms from so-called nuisance lawsuits by citizens whose health and property values are threatened by the pollution and stench of nearby concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs. But the Republican-dominated legislature has overridden the Democratic governor's last four vetoes, and the politically powerful Big Pork lobby is urging lawmakers to also reverse the latest one. The North Carolina House of Representatives has scheduled a reconsideration of Cooper’s veto for Wednesday.

In a recent investigation, EWG used county tax assessor data to map the estimated 60,000 residential properties in the state within half a mile of a hog or poultry factory farm. But studies have documented health problems, reduced air quality and noxious odors at much farther distances, and EWG identified an estimated 270,000 residential properties within three miles of an industrial-scale hog farm.  

Now EWG has released the names of the property owners to help legislators and their constituents understand just how many citizens could have their property rights slashed if lawmakers override Cooper’s veto.

“Big Pork and its political patrons say this bill is about helping family farms, but let's get real: The legislation was written to benefit Smithfield Foods – the world's largest pork producer, owned by a multinational conglomerate that’s controlled by the Chinese government,” said Craig Cox, EWG's senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources.

"If lawmakers override the governor's veto, hardworking families who are suffering from CAFO pollution would effectively be denied their right to fair compensation for damage to their health, quality of life and the value of their homes," Cox said. "That stinks as bad as the open-air manure pits that have made these folks essentially prisoners in their own homes."

About 500 rural North Carolinians are suing Smithfield subsidiary Murphy-Brown, saying airborne liquid manure from nearby CAFOs has not only ruined the quality of their lives, but has threatened their health. Last week, on the same day Cooper vetoed the bill, documents filed in federal court in the Murphy-Brown lawsuits presented evidence from scientific testing that found “tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands” of DNA particles from hog feces in the yards of homes within a half-mile of a factory farm.

“This indisputable evidence shows that North Carolinians who live near factory farms are literally being dumped on by Smithfield and the rest of the hog industry,” said EWG President Ken Cook.