I am mainly a lurker but I am curious as to what you all think about the
Supreme Court Ruling overturning "Right to Farm" laws (see AP article
below)? My husband and I are in the process of starting a small
farm/nursery business in Suffolk, VA. The property is in an agricultural
zone but right across the road the zoning changes to "rural residential"
where most farming activities are allowed only with approval. So I am
curious about what the ramifications of this ruling might be. Are the
so-called "right-to-farm" laws intended primarily to protect people like
us, those farming on the fringe of residential properties or do they
exist to protect the huge pig farm/chicken factories that move into an
area and ruin the residents land with their by-products (including
odor). I know that some type of "right-to-farm" law was pushed through
in Utah a few years back to pave the way for Smithfield Hams and other
slaughterhouses to move in and the third issue in Time Magazine on
corperate welfare mentioned that the profiled company was immune from
lawsuits despite the fact that those unfortunates who lived near it had
to wear masks when they went outside.
So, was this ruling a good thing or a bad thing? When I find an issue
to complex to get a real grasp of it, I often look at who is for it and
who is against it but I don't know who the players are in this case.
Sasha Goldberg, lurker and farmer wannabe
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Court Lets Iowa Farm Case Stand
By Richard Carelli
Associated Press Writer
Monday, February 22, 1999; 10:14 a.m. EST WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court today let stand a ruling it was told casts doubt on all 50 states' efforts to protect farmers from being sued by their neighbors under public-nuisance laws.
The justices, without comment, refused to review a decision by Iowa's highest court that struck down the state's ``right to farm'' law, similar to laws enacted in every other state.
A large, interstate coalition of farmer groups told the court that the Iowa Supreme Court decision, if allowed to stand, will deprive more than 100,000 Iowa farms of the legal assurance that they won't be sued ``because they look and sound and smell like farms.''
The coalition also told the justices that the Iowa court's reasoning, if adopted elsewhere, would wipe out any state's ``right to farm'' law.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, states passed those laws in response to pressures from suburban sprawl. The laws are aimed at protecting farms by offering them a qualified defense to nuisance lawsuits by neighbors who object to the normal incidents of farming operations.
The Iowa law, enacted in 1982, is typical in that it protects farmers against nuisance lawsuits as long as the basis of neighbors' complaints are not tied violations of federal or state laws, negligent operation of the farm, water pollution or excessive soil erosion.
People who own about 1,000 acres of land in Kossuth County, Iowa, had their land designated as an agricultural area under the state's ``right to farm'' law in 1995, but the designation was quickly challenged by owners of neighboring land.
The neighbors sued the Kossuth County Board of Supervisors, contending that its action amounted to an unconstitutional ``taking'' of property without just compensation because the farmland had been given ``nuisance immunity.''
The lawsuit attacked the state ``right to farm'' law even though no allegations of a nuisance were raised.
A state trial judge threw out the lawsuit, but the Iowa Supreme Court last September reinstated it and struck down the ``right to farm'' law.''
``The challenged statutory scheme amounts to a commandeering of valuable property rights without compensating the owners, and sacrificing those rights for the economic advantage of a few,'' the state court ruled. ``In short, it appropriates valuable private property interests and awards them to strangers.''
In the appeal acted on today, lawyers for the farmland owners argued that the Iowa court's ruling conflicts with the nation's highest court's previous rulings on governmental actions that have an impact on private property.
Those decisions generally have said an unlawful, ``taking'' of private property without compensation occurs only if land is physically invaded or its owner is deprived of all economic use of the land.
The appeal said the Iowa court's ruling threatens ``the unanimous judgment of the states that farming is worth preserving and protecting.''
The case is Girres vs. Bormann, 98-1003.
© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press
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