INDIANAPOLIS -- Residents of Danville, Indiana, along with the Hoosier Environmental Council, filed a nuisance lawsuit Wednesday against a large factory farm. The suit, if successful, could have major consequences for the agriculture industry in the state.
Neighbors of the farm, which contains approximately 8,000 pigs, say the odor is unbearable. Gases like ammonia and hydrogen sulfide that waft from large manure pits could pose health risks. And they say their property value has plummeted, so they can’t just sell and move away.
But it’s really hard to sue a farm in Indiana because of the state’s complicated Right To Farm Act.
"Reading the Right to Farm Act can make anybody's head spin," says Kim Ferraro, the attorney for the Hoosier Environmental Council.
"If you were a land owner that lived next to any other type of industrial facility — a steel mill, a cement plant, pick anything — you would be able to get damages on property values and yourself," she says. "But that's not the case for people who live in agricuultural areas under the Right to Farm Act."
Ferraro argues that this law, and others like it, favor the agriculture industry over regular citizens and that's unconstitutional. So in addition to seeking damages, Farraro will challenge the consitutionality of the state's Right to Farm laws.
"We're all supposed to be equal under the eyes of the law, and courts are supposed to decide cases fairly and be objective arbiters of the facts," she says.
It could be months or years before a final verdict is reached, but if Ferraro is successful, livestock operations in Indiana may be open to similar lawsuits in the future.
The defendants in this case declined to comment on the lawsuit, because they had not yet seen it.