Neighbors of hog farm on trial: Complaint doesn’t add up

The truth about the nuisance lawsuit brought by a Texas lawyer against a North Carolina hog farm cannot properly be told by the activists, or the bloggers, or the media, or the lawyers and lobbyists paid to mischaracterize what has taken place inside a federal courtroom in Raleigh since May 29.

They weren’t there.

When you strip away the rhetoric and agendas and misinformation, what you find is that the truth was told in the courtroom. Hopefully, the jury listened.

It came from five people with little interest in the outcome.

Four of them live closer than anyone to the Joey Carter farm that straddles Hallsville Road in Duplin County:

  • James Newkirk, who was there before the farm.
  • James’ wife, Wanda.
  • J.C. Kenan, who was also there before the farm.
  • Justin “Dub” Davis, who has lived with his family within eyesight for a decade and just built a new, second home nearby.

And the fifth?

It’s the U.S. postal carrier, Kim Whaley, who drives around and past the farm day after day after day.

Those five all put their right hand in the air and swore to tell the truth.

Sure, it’s worth a reminder about what the husband and wife plaintiffs who live farther away alleged – and didn’t – about the so-called nuisance farm.

They could not and did not claim any sickness, physical discomfort, injury, or any health issues at all, despite so much of what you may have read. As they told it, there was so little of substance about the farm that it was years before they knew it was even there. What they did say is that sometimes they get odor and sometimes they see flies and that they do not believe it’s from the horses, chickens or cows that are much closer to their home than the hog farm they moved in next to, a quarter-mile away.

But in truth, five people told it all.

What they said is that the Joey Carter farm is not a nuisance. And that it doesn’t interfere with the neighborhood or neighbors.

J.C.: It’s not like they say. There is not an odor, and I live so close I can hear when the feeders run out in the hog house.

Kim: I can’t tell you the last time I’ve ever smelled odor from the farm.

Dub: We live next door. My wife and kids, we walk on the farm and near it. There’s no issue, no concern, no odor.

Wanda: What’s being said about this farm – it don’t make sense.

James: I hate to feel like an innocent man is going down.

Testimony that tells it all.

It tells how troubling it is that a case like this can get this far, taking up years of time and money, energy and effort, and then a month with a federal judge and 12 jurors.

It tells why farmers across North Carolina are as concerned as ever about their ability to raise crops, livestock, timber and seafood. For, if Joey Carter can end up in court, then surely most any can.

It tells why lawmakers must provide protections for farmers in North Carolina, because farmers continue to face lawsuits that seek to label long-standing, responsible, well-run farms as nuisances in an attempt to win large sums of money.

And it tells why it is so deeply saddening that outside lawyers and groups want to use a good man and a good farmer, who has been operating well for three decades, as an instrument of their own agendas in wrongly influencing others to think agriculture is harmful.

In the legal textbooks, the subject of nuisance is described as one of the “impenetrable jungles” of law.

Nuisance, Prosser and Keeton write in their text,“has meant all things to all people, and (it) has been applied indiscriminately to everything from an alarming advertisement to a cockroach baked in a pie. There is general agreement that it is incapable of any exact or comprehensive definition.”

Just as incomprehensible is that the livelihood of an ethical, honest, hard-working farmer from Duplin County is now in the hands of 12 jurors in Raleigh.

– Andy Curliss, CEO