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Something stinks in dispute over hog farm

Virginia’s Smithfield is America’s largest producer of pork products, with famous brands such as Eckrich, Nathan’s, Armour and others in its portfolio (not to mention its eponymous ham product line). The company owns hundreds of thousands of sows, raised in places such as its industrial-sized facility in North Carolina.

The hog-growing operation is at the center of a business lawsuit over whether the odors its hogs generate are too smelly for neighbors to bear. U.S. District Judge W. Earl Britt recently ruled in the case that jurors won’t be taken for a sniff test of the farm.

“Plaintiffs’ odor and other complaints, of course, cover a much longer period,” the judge wrote in his order. “Conditions when jurors visit would not necessarily be substantially similar to what plaintiffs experienced at a given time.”

Jurors in the case are due to be selected in a trial that could take up to six weeks. Depending on the outcome, the trial could change industry profits and production methods.

Defendants’ attorneys had asked for the smell test so that jurors could get a whiff of what it’s like for neighbors of the facility. Plaintiffs’ attorneys said it is no coincidence that the other side wants to take jurors on an olfactory tour – facility operators are removing millions of gallons of stinky waste from the place.

A neighbor said that waste removal has “never before occurred in the 23-year history of this operation.”

We do not know how the dispute will be resolved, but these matters can often be settled favorably with the help of attorneys skilled in both negotiations and litigation.

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