Polk supporting state hog farms
Published 8:00 am Thursday, August 23, 2018
Commissioners approve resolution to protect farmers
COLUMBUS — In light of recent lawsuits filed against state hog farmers, the Polk County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution this week in support of all North Carolina farmers.
Commissioners met Monday night and approved the resolution by a 4-1 vote. Commissioner Ray Gasperson voted against the resolution, saying the resolution is more about big commercial operations.
“I think it would be crazy to pass this resolution,” Gasperson said. “If the board should do so, and then publicize the passage to the media and the other 99 counties of North Carolina, I believe it would result in telling hog farmers that Polk County has put out the welcome mat for big commercial hog farmers to move to our beautiful, rural county of Polk. This would be a serious misstep. And I’m not willing to take this risk.”
“I think it’s opening a door that I’m willing to step right through,” Commissioner Shane Bradley said in response.
Commissioner Chair Jake Johnson placed the resolution on the agenda and said in watching the news about these lawsuits, it struck a nerve with him. He said he believes the people filing the suits did not know they were filing against their neighbors and local farmers. He said it is more a resolution to protect all farmers.
“To me, it’s more about the [precedent],” Johnson said.
Johnson said the state General Assembly took action to provide a little bit of relief to farmers, but Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed it. Johnson said he sides with the legislators.
Following the meeting, Johnson said he plans to continue to voice his opinion on the issue.
“I have been on record and will continue to voice my opinion that Gov. Cooper’s administration showed a shameful lack of effort to offer any kind of relief to North Carolina farmers, and took little to no steps to prevent this from happening in the future,” he said.
The resolution will be sent to the 99 other counties in hopes they will also pass the resolution.
“It is my hope that this will be passed by all 100 counties and can be used in court to show our support of these farmers as they go through their appeal process,” Johnson said. “If not overturned, the [precedent] this sets is a dangerous one for farms of all sizes across the state of North Carolina, and if the agriculture industry were to be shut down, it would be devastating for the entire North Carolina economy.”
Agriculture in North Carolina employs 17 percent of the state’s workers, and accounts for nearly 20 percent of the state’s economy.
There have been 26 lawsuits filed alleging nuisance against Murphy-Brown, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, but county officials say most of the farms affected are independently owned family farms whose owners stand to lose their livelihood as a result of the litigation.
Commissioner Tommy Melton complimented Johnson for his work.
Commissioner Vice Chair Myron Yoder said he was raised on a farm, and this could happen to dairy farmers or dog kennels.
Gasperson said he disagrees. He said if someone has a bona fide farm, there is no way to stop them from conducting farming activities.
By The Board Of Commissoners Of Polk County To Protect North Carolina Farmers
WHEREAS, agriculture is one of the most significant drivers of North Carolina’s economy, creating tens of billions in economic activity, employing 17 percent of the state’s workers and accounting for nearly 20 percent of the state’s economy; and
WHEREAS, 26 lawsuits have been filed in North Carolina asserting nuisance allegations against Murphy-Brown, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods; and
WHEREAS, while the lawsuits name Murphy-Brown as a defendant, most of the farms affected by the lawsuits are independently-owned family farms who, despite operating their farms in a law-abiding manner, stand to lose their livelihoods as a result of the litigation; and
WHEREAS, during the trial phase of a recent case, the jury was denied the ability to conduct a site visit to experience first-hand the conditions complained of and after verdicts were reached, a gag order was entered preventing farmers and their neighbors from publicly discussing the conditions on their farms or the effects of the lawsuits on their farming communities.
WHEREAS, the Polk County Board of Commissioners fear that if this verdict is not overturned, it will set a precedent with far reaching ramifications devastating to North Carolina’s agricultural economy, harmful to rural farming communities and will push hardworking family farmers into bankruptcy by stymying their ability to produce fruits and vegetables, raise livestock and seafood, and grow crops and grains.
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Polk County Board of Commissioners does hereby support the Swine Farmers of Eastern North Carolina and believe that the agriculture industry is vital to the North Carolina economy and should be protected.