Trial court applies Right to Farm Act

On Feb. 9, the Hendricks County Superior Court ruled in favor of a group of hog farmers and their cooperative when it dismissed a lawsuit against them.

Right To Farm Act_pigsThe lawsuit was filed by neighbors who argued that the hog farm was a nuisance, that the farm’s location was a result of negligent siting and that the farm would release odors which would trespass on the neighbors’ property.

The court had initially ruled that the case could proceed to trial. However, the farmers asked the court to reconsider its ruling. The Indiana Agricultural Law Foundation (INAgLaw) and Hendricks County filed “amicus curiae” (or “friend of the court”) briefs in support of the hog farmers.

The farmers and INAgLaw argued the Indiana Right to Farm Act (RTFA) protected the hog farmers against the nuisance claims raised by the neighbors. The act bars a nuisance claim against an agricultural operation even if the operation changes from one type of agriculture to another, such as when a grain farmer decides to start raising livestock, unless the plaintiff’s damages were caused by the agricultural operation’s negligent operations.

The plaintiffs argued the farm itself had been negligently sited, so the RTFA should not apply. There was no evidence the plaintiffs’ alleged damage had been caused by any negligent operations, and the negligent siting theory impeded on the county’s right to grant zoning permission to locate a farm within the county. The RTFA does not apply if agricultural operations would have been a nuisance at the time they began on the site. In this case, the ground had been agricultural since at least the 1940s. The farmers and INAgLaw argued there was no evidence agriculture operations would have been a nuisance at the site in the 1940s. The RTFA applied and protected the farmers.

After another oral argument, the court reversed its original ruling and granted summary judgment to all the defendants on all counts. The plaintiffs have 30 days to appeal.