North Carolina's Right to Farm Act was upheld this week at the North Carolina Court of Appeals when the three-judge panel unanimously dismissed a challenge to the law brought by the Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help, North Carolina Environmental Justice Community Action Network and Waterkeeper Alliance in 2019.
The ruling was in line with the decision brought earlier this year by a special panel of three Superior Court judges, appointed by then-Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley. That panel also unanimously dismissed the complaint, which was then appealed to the Court of Appeals.
The law was successfully defended at the appeals court by the State Attorney General's office, with additional support from North Carolina Farm Bureau and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The North Carolina Pork Council provided monetary support for the North Carolina Farm Bureau defense.
In 2017, the North Carolina legislature passed H.B. 467 to clarify and strengthen the state's Right to Farm laws to protect and ensure farming can continue in the state. The Right to Farm law was first passed in 1979, strengthened again in 2013, and further clarified in 2017 and 2018 after a federal judge allowed nuisance lawsuits to be filed against swine farms in federal court. While the nuisance lawsuits precipitated the changes in the laws, the appeals court pointed out that the law protects all of agriculture, not just the swine industry.
This case was brought against the Right to Farm Act as a whole (a facial challenge) so there is a possibility it could be challenged again if there was a specific instance where a plaintiff felt his/her rights were violated.
Jake Parker, general counsel for the North Carolina Farm Bureau, talks about the importance of this victory for the state's entire agricultural industry: