A U.S. District Court Judge in Baltimore, Maryland has sided with a Maryland family farm in a lawsuit brought by local environmental groups. The Waterkeeper Alliance, the Assateague Coastal Trust, and the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic together brought charges against Perdue Farms Inc., and contract chicken growers Alan and Kristin Hudson of Berlin, Md.
The suit alleged that the large-scale chicken production facility had violated environmental law, but failed to meet its burden of proof that there was a discharge of pollution from the farm.
"We are thrilled with today's ruling, which clearly is a resounding victory for Perdue and farm families everywhere," said Julie DeYoung, Perdue's spokesperson. "We congratulate the Hudsons on their long-overdue exoneration. We are also pleased that the judge upheld existing law that safeguards the contractor relationship and confirms the independence of thousands of family farms who choose to raise poultry and livestock. This is a good day for Maryland and for agriculture."
As states along the Mississippi river begin to consider Nutrient Reduction Strategies as recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency, environmental activists will undoubtedly turn up the heat on NPK runoff, and while chicken production and row-crop production are at opposite ends of the grain cycle, the implications are the same. Increased regulatory action cannot compete with proven methods on the farm.
If environmental activism is allowed to drive farm policy, farmers could well wind up farming according to a mandate. "As Judge Nickerson pointed out in his Summary Judgment letter, they [the environmentalists] went looking for someone to sue, and when they found a large pile on the Hudson Farm that they thought was chicken manure, they thought they had their 'bad apple'," DeYoung said. "The pile turned out to be legal biosolids from nearby Ocean City. But the Waterkeepers persisted with their lawsuit anyway, changing their arguments throughout the case. Perdue and the Hudsons were convenient targets in the Waterkeeper Alliance's national campaign against modern agriculture. The Assateague Coastal Trust and University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic were enthusiastic partners in this reckless witch-hunt against Maryland farmers."
Photo credit: 4BlueEyes Pete Williamson / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND