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North Carolina pork producers hope for override of nuisance bill veto

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North Carolina pork producers are hoping for some political magic to have that state’s Legislature override a veto by Gov. Roy Cooper of a bill that would protect hog producers, as well as other industries from lawsuits.

According to The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C., 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 News & Observer, “Overriding the governor’s veto would require three-fifths of the votes in both chambers: 72 votes in the House and 30 votes in the Senate. The bill passed the House with 68 votes and with 30 votes in the Senate. But when the House voted on the Senate version of the legislation for final approval, the bill received 74 House votes. Several changed votes and several absences could determine the outcome of the override.

“The votes 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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