Consumers, Farmers Debate Frivolous Suit Bill

US - Supporters say a Senate bill would protect family farms from frivolous lawsuits. Opponents say the bill would leave consumers with no way to fight large farming operations.
calendar icon 3 May 2007
clock icon 2 minute read

Speakers from both sides, including many from North Alabama, attended a public hearing Wednesday before the Senate Agriculture, Forestry and Conservation Committee. The committee will decide later whether to approve the measure.

Supporters say the bill by Sen. Kim Benefield, D-Woodland, gives added protections against frivolous lawsuits for farmers operating in compliance with state and federal law. The supporters include the Alabama Farmers Federation and its member farmers.

Opponents' stance

Opponents, who include environmental groups and the Alabama Trial Lawyers Association, say that if the Legislature passes the measure, consumers will have little way to fight pollution and other environmental concerns raised by large-scale corporate animal feeding operations, known as CAFOs.

"I know what manure smells like. I also know what open cesspools smell like," said Judy Holt, a third-generation farmer from Ider.

Holt said she has cattle grazing in a pasture next to her yard.

She grew up on the farm, but said a large-scale pig farm that moved into her community eight years ago changed how she views government restrictions on farm operations.

She said the farm pollutes the environment, threatens the water supply and creates odors that make outside activity unpleasant.

Holt said she asked to have CAFOS excluded from Benefield's bill but they were not. She said the state needs laws that allow average consumers to fight large-scale cattle, hog and poultry farms. State environmental oversight has not been effective, she said.

Source: The Decatur Daily

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