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· Proposed expansion of Nebraska's Right to Farm Act runs into opposition
· 'Right to farm' expansion delayed by concern over neighbors' rights
Proposed expansion of Nebraska's Right to Farm Act runs into opposition
By Paul Hammel and Martha Stoddard, Omaha World-Herald (NE)
Apr 9, 2019
LINCOLN — A legislative attempt to expand Nebraska’s Right to Farm Act, sought by farm groups to fend off lawsuits over farming-related nuisances, ran into questions Monday over whether it would grant immunity from all such litigation.
While rural senators defended Legislative Bill 227 as a way to ease fears among livestock producers when expanding their operations, a University of Nebraska law professor and a fellow lawyer, State Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha, said it was unreasonable to give a farming operation immunity from lawsuits from a neighbor over nuisances like odor, dust and flies.
“We’re going to say the doors to the courthouse are closed (to a neighbor),” Lathrop said. “This is fundamentally unfair and probably unconstitutional, and I gotta tell you, it’s not the Nebraska way.”
Nebraska’s current Right to Farm Act, adopted in 1982, protects long-standing farm operations from nuisance lawsuits from newcomers to a rural area. The idea is that the farmer has grandfather rights, and newcomers can’t sue over conditions that existed before they moved in.
But LB 277, which was introduced on behalf of two major farm groups — the Nebraska Cattlemen and the Nebraska Farm Bureau — would expand that immunity from lawsuits much further.
Sen. Dan Hughes of Venango, who is a farmer, said the purpose of the bill is to protect ag producers from lawsuits when they expand an existing operation, and when they use “reasonable techniques” to keep problems like “dust, noise, insects and odors at a minimum.”
Hughes rejected suggestions by Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha that LB 277 was aimed at protecting huge corporate farms and not smaller family farms. He said it was about allowing an operation to expand so a son or daughter could move back to a farm.
“This bill is intended to protect those who are doing this the right way,” Hughes said.
LB 277 comes at a time when many in agriculture are worried about nuisance lawsuits. Last year, Smithfield Foods, the nation’s largest pork producer, was ordered to pay $470 million in damages to three neighbors of its North Carolina hog farms because of obnoxious and persistent odors.
Nebraska farmers wishing to build large chicken farms to supply Fremont’s new Costco plant have also run into static...
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'Right to farm' expansion delayed by concern over neighbors' rights
by Fred Knapp, NetNebraska.org
April 8, 2019
In the Legislature Monday, a proposal making it harder for neighbors to sue farmers over nuisances like odors was delayed by opponents who said it could deny justice to people with legitimate complaints.
The bill introduced by Sen. Dan Hughes of Venango would expand Nebraska’s so-called “Right to Farm” law. That law, passed in 1982, says farms that existed before a change in use or occupancy of the land around them cannot be considered a nuisance.
Hughes’ bill would require farmers to use reasonable techniques to minimize things like dust, noise, insects and odors. But it would also protect them from lawsuits because of a change in the size or type of farm operation.
Hughes said that protection is needed because many urban residents who move to the countryside have an idealized vision of what rural life is like. “Not fully knowing what to expect, they move in and are annoyed by the regular sights, sounds and smells that accompany rural living and farm life. They are not following the advice of ‘Buyer Beware’ and they seek restitution for not doing their research and understanding what agriculture is really about prior to moving in,” he said.
Hughes used an urban analogy to explain the situation. “This is not any different from someone who has moved in next to the airport and then begins complaining about the airplanes,” he said.
And Hughes tried to preempt arguments that the proposal favors big agricultural operations, like hog confinement or cattle feedlots, at the expense of their smaller farm neighbors. “There’s a lot of concern – I know you’ve all gotten a lot of emails, and I hear there’s some phone calls coming in – that this is about Big Ag. It is not about Big Ag. It’s about Ag – big, small, medium. We’re seeing a concentration of agriculture, because that is what keeps our food prices cheap. But we want to keep as many people on the farm as possible. And this bill will help do that. And this bill will help do that,” he said.
Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers opposed Hughes proposal. Chambers described a scenario he said the bill would allow. “If I move in and my neighbor has row crops, that’s one thing. And if my neighbor has done that for a year or more, then under this bill, he can start a swine operation. He can build a feedlot operation, which he did after I move in. This bill allows that,” Chambers said...
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