If you are not familiar with rural living and buy property out of town, you may in for some big surprises. Among these is the presence of hog farms. It may not be visible from your property, and when you purchased the land, you may not have been within smelling distance, but conditions change at different times of year, and when the wind turns the fumes and odor can be unbearable. If the farm was preexisting when you purchased your land, you may not have a leg to stand on, unless they have made major changes to their practices. However, if you already own property and a hog farm goes in nearby, or if a preexisting farm violates growth laws or falls below accepted standards of operation, nuisance laws are there to protect you from the damage.
The factory hog farms of today are not the quaint, country businesses that you may be picturing. If they were, you probably wouldn’t be reading about hog farm nuisance right now. The majority of today’s hog farms are large industrial operations, and once you get to know them you’ll find the term “farm” a large stretch of the imagination. Living near a large hog farm is more like living near a landfill, chemical plant, or strip mine, than living near the traditional family run ranch.
In most cases the first thing you notice is the smell. It may start out as a faint stench, but can grow to an odor so overpowering that you can no longer spend time outside for work or pleasure. Some families plagued by nearby hog farms have reported fumes do strong that merely trying to walk outside and get in their cars causes them to double-over retching uncontrollably.
As if the offensive smell weren’t bad enough, there are other, more serious, hidden dangers. Industrialized hog farms produce massive amounts of waste. The toxic waste which they produce can make its way into your well, soil, groundwater, and streams, as well as the air. It can not only prevent you from using and enjoying your land today, but ruin your property long-term, and result in serious illness to you and your family. Needless to say, it will also destroy your property value making it impossible for you to sell your no longer usable land and replace it. You’ll be stuck with the nuisance unless you take action.
Nuisances caused by hog farms include:
- Airborne pesticides
- Toxic runoff
- Contaminated water
- Property damage
- Diminished property value
- Serious health problems
Understanding right-to-farm laws
Every state has some kind of right-to-farm law. Some states lean heavily in favor of corporate farming operations. Others have strict regulations on growth and strictly enforce basic standards of practice. Right-to-farm laws were created to help establish a balance, protecting existing farms from being shut down by unfair nuisance lawsuits. Existing farms are protected from nuisance lawsuits brought by property owners who buy their property knowing a hog farm is nearby, and then try to shut them down. They are not a blank check for large farming operations to move in where they please and destroy surrounding properties.
When you purchase property it is important to do your research and know what you are getting into. Don’t rely on real estate agents and sellers to tell you everything you should know, even though it is their responsibility. Desperate property owners, already suffering from hog farm nuisance and facing diminished property value may not be honest with you. If you already own property and a hog farm springs up nearby, creating a nuisance, you must take action as quickly as possible to minimize the damage to your property and possibly your health.