Sun setting behind a hog farm National Pork Board

North Carolina Senate overrides nuisance bill veto

Updated: Gov. Roy Cooper had vetoed a bill that would have offered protection to hog producers and other industries from nuisance lawsuits.

North Carolina pork producers got the magic that they had been hoping for as the state Senate overrode a veto by Gov. Roy Cooper, who had sought to preserve the right of property owners to sue farmers over quality-of-life issues, according to The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C. 

The state Senate narrowly defeated Cooper’s veto on Thursday, a day after the House took the same step. The Senate vote was 30 to 18, mostly along party lines, in a procedure that requires support from three-fifths of lawmakers present. The vote was similar Wednesday in the House, with 74 voting to override the governor’s veto, and 40 voting to support the governor.

“The new law limits the amount of money people can collect in lawsuits against hog farms for odors, headaches, flies and other aggravations. Critics have said the law limits financial recovery to the point that such lawsuits are not likely to be filed in the future,” according to the News & Observer.

According to an earlier article in The News & Observer, a statement by Cooper says the bill, “which revises the state’s ‘nuisance’ laws, would take away protections for homeowners. The bill protects hog farms, forestry operations and other agricultural operations.”

“Special protection for one industry opens the door to weakening our nuisance laws in other areas which can allow real harm to homeowners, the environment and everyday North Carolinians,” Cooper, the state’s former Attorney General, goes on to say in the statement.

In late-April, after the North Carolina Senate Agriculture Environment and Natural Resources committee passed the House bill, North Carolina Pork Council CEO Andy Curliss issued a statement: “The N.C. Pork Council supports the legislation that was approved this afternoon … It is important to clarify the law regarding available nuisance damages to protect North Carolina farmers from predatory lawyers. House Bill 467 goes a long way toward achieving that goal.”

The News & Observer article states, “House Bill 467 was passed last month in response to 26 lawsuits pending in federal court against the state’s largest hog producer, Murphy-Brown, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods. In the suits, nearly 500 residents say hog farms have made their lives unbearable from odors, flies, buzzards, pig carcasses and other aggravations.”

After Cooper vetoed the bill on May 5, the NCPC issued another statement: “The North Carolina Pork Council is disappointed in Gov. Cooper’s veto of a bill that passed the legislature with bipartisan support. The ratified bill strikes a balance in providing clarity and certainty to farmers while ensuring that property owners remain protected. Our laws offer special protections for a wide range of industries — and farmers are among them. North Carolina’s pork producers follow stringent environmental regulations.

“We encourage the legislature to override the veto in support of a vital sector of North Carolina’s economy.”

According to the earlier article in The News & Observer, “The votes (for the original bill) largely fell along party lines, with Republicans supporting hog and farming operations and Democrats supporting other local property owners. Still, nine Democrats in the House broke ranks with their party and voted for the bill, while five House Republicans voted against it. In the Senate, four Republicans voted against it, but no Democrats supported the bill.” Gov. Cooper is a Democrat.  

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