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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Environment - More on: Right to Farm Act prevails in Randolph County lawsuits

Updating the ILB post from yesterday, which included Judge Vorhees' ruling in Armstrong v. Maxwell Farms, three other similar orders on summary judgment motions were also filed by the judge on July 10, all with the same results (each one differs slightly but all come to the same result), granting defendant Maxwell Farms' motion for summary judgment on the basis that the Indiana Right to Farm Act was constitutional and that it barred plaintiff' nuisance claims: Pegg, et al v. Maxwell Farms, Neudecker v. Maxwell Farms, and Williams v. Maxwell Farms.

Gary Baise, a law school classmate of mine, who practices farm law nationally out of his Washington DC firm, was lead attorney for Maxwell Farms. Mary Ramey and Richard Hailey of Indianapolis represented the plaintiffs.

The Right to Farm Act. Per the opinions, these cases were decided under Indiana's 1981 statute, which the legislature amended in 2005, IC 32-30-6-9. A key paragraph of each ruling, which appears as para. #29 of the Armstrong opinion, reads:

Plaintiffs have argued the increased size and scope of the current swine operations constitutes a new and different use. This is not correct under Indiana law. The Court must read the statutory language, which is unambiguous, and apply it as written. The Indiana Legislature had to know in 2005, when it amended the Right to Farm Act, that the number of animals being confined in swine and dairy operations was growing exponentially, and yet the Legislature did not give neighbors surrounding the operations any relief. In 2005, the Legislature made the Right to Farm Act even more restrictive to potential lawsuits. The Legislature has made its intent known to protect farming operations against nuisance actions, even if the operation grows from a few hogs to several thousand, and even if the operation changes from growing com to raising thousands of hogs.
Interestingly, Indiana now has two Right to Farm acts, plus there have been efforts to add it to the Indiana Constitution.

In the 2014 session, legislation was introduced to, as the ILB wrote on Jan. 14, 2014, put "right to farm" in the Indiana Code, again. (The ILB's Jan. 14th post is well worth rereading.)

The bill, SB 186, passed and became law on July 1, 2014. See this Feb. 25, 2014 ILB post. The new law includes this provision:

The Indiana Code shall be construed to protect the rights of farmers to choose among all generally accepted farming and livestock production practices, including the use of ever changing technology.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on July 17, 2014 11:40 AM
Posted to Environment | Ind. Trial Ct. Decisions