citizen lawsuit against one of the nation’s largest
confinement hog producers in the nation -- Iowa Select Farms
-- produced perhaps the largest settlement ever against a
factory farm -- $33 million. The firm says it will appeal,
according to a story in the Des Moines Register of Oct. 10.
A rural Sac County, Iowa, jury ruled Oct. 10, granting $1.06
million in compensatory, or actual, damages, plus $32 million
in punitive damages.
The punitive damages appeared to be based on the contention
that the firm willfully and recklessly located a 30,000-hog
facility on a 640-acre parcel of land without regard to its
impact on neighbors, the plaintiff’s attorney said.
They alleged that the facility produced offensive odors, noxious
gases and excessive flies
“The victory sends a strong message that these outfits
can’t come into a community and act with impunity,”
Hugh Espey told NewFarm.Org. He is rural project director
at Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, a group that favors
family-scale hog operations with positive impacts on their
communities. Iowa CCI partners with Practical Farmers of Iowa
and the Leopold Center, two groups working to support profitable
and regenerative farming.
This is the first jury victory in Iowa challenging an active
large-scale confinement set-up, but is one in a series of
court victories for citizens seeking redress for damages caused
by similar operations. Espey said the 1995 state nuisance
law provision remains on the books, but has not shielded confinement
operations with significant, documented impact on quality
of life or property values for the surrounding communities.
Espey said the jury was “made up of regular people
in a very rural county who are probably fed up with giant
corporations coming in and disrupting their quality of life."
Sac County had 11,331 residents in the 2000 U.S. Census.