A Maryland poultry grower has triumphed in the Federal courts against an environmental activist group. Now before you see visions of factory farms in your heads this family, the Hudsons have two chicken houses. Their farm is considered “small compared to the average chicken farm on Maryland’s Eastern Shore”. The family also raises corn, soy beans, hay and a few beef cattle. Their battle began in 2010 when Waterkeeper Alliance (a citizen group) filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming the family had violated the clean water act because they had a long standing manure pile. At Waterkeeper Alliance’s behest the Maryland Dept. of the Environment investigated. The Department found that it was not a manure pile but a lawfully obtained pile of biosolids. They asked the farmers to move it to another location and to spread it in the spring for the next crop growing season. The Department determined no further action was required. Not to be deterred by facts, the Waterkeeper Alliance amended their law suit to include the words “factory farm operation” and made further accusations of air contaminants and moved forward in the courts. Three years and $100,000.00 later the family was vindicated in court. The judge had harsh words for the Waterkeepers, but that will not give this family back their 3 years of worry and the money it cost them to defend themselves. Here’s a quote from Lee Richardson, president of the Wicomico County Farm Bureau and a member of the SaveFarmFamilies.org. “We are grateful that justice prevailed and common sense won the day; however, we remain concerned that other farmers will suffer the same fate as the Hudson’s at the hands of bullies armed with millions of celebrity fueled dollars and an attitude of taking farmers down at all costs, with or without evidence.”
The second story comes from West Virginia, where in 2011 EPA demanded that poultry grower Lois Alt obtain a Clean Water Act discharge permit for storm water runoff from her farmyard or face up to $37,500 per day in penalties. They also threatened her with $37,500 in fines for each time storm water came into contact with dust, feathers or small amounts of manure on the ground outside of her poultry houses as a result of normal poultry farming operations. In May of 2012 EPA again inspected her farm. Alt’s response to EPA’s threats was to file her own legal challenge to the EPA order in June of 2012. In October the US District court ruled that West Virginia Farm Bureau and the American Farm Bureau Federation had standing to join with Alt in her legal challenge. The EPA has now withdrawn their demands. Quote from Bob Stallman AFBF President “This is a personal victory for Lois Alt, but it should not have taken a federal lawsuit to convince EPA to withdraw an order that was illegal from the start.”
So there you have it, two chicken stories. What does it mean to you folks in the city? As you munch on those chicken wings on Super Bowl Sunday, just realize they are a little bit more expensive because down on the farm hiring a lawyer to defend our rights is becoming just as common a practice as spreading manure.
Click here for to read the full stories. (Hudson’s story is on page 8 and the Alt’s story is on page 3)
~ Lorraine Newman