Iowa farmers awarded $33 million in suit against
factory hog facility

Multi-million damage award stuns Iowa hog integrator

By Greg Bowman, New Farm® editor

The significance of this judgment

In his “Pork Commentary” of Oct. 15, hog industry analyst Jim Long warns that the judgment – if it stands – could have a chilling effect on hog industry consolidation. He argues that bigger integrators make more attractive legal targets. It could also make financing more difficult, he predicted. Long is president of Baconmaker Genetics/Wood Lynn Farms, Inc. For Long's full commentary, click here.

Resources

Want to contact Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement?
Iowa CCI
2001 Forest Ave.
Des Moines, Iowa 50311
(515) 282-0484,
fax (515) 283-0031 iowacci@dwx.com

For the full DesMoines Register story, click here.

A successful 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.