A Stake in the Verdict

This week a lot of farmers are keeping their fingers crossed as the second nuisance trial against Smithfield Foods starts in Raleigh. They’re wondering, What could a second defeat mean for hog farming? And for eastern North Carolina?The answer is: A lot.Agriculture is a foundation of North Carolina’s economy, and hog and poultry farming are the backbone of North Carolina agriculture. Hog farming alone creates over 40,000 jobs. And that’s only part of the story: As a lady, who raises hogs on her farm, explained she buys parts and equipment at local stores, insurance from a local agency, supplies at a local hardware store, oil and gas at local service stations and cars or trucks from local automobile dealers. She also pays property taxes which, in turn, pay for schools. Her point was simple: It’s not just farmers who could be hurt by these lawsuits. It’s people in small towns across eastern North Carolina.In the first nuisance trial it was easy for the plaintiffs’ lawyer to stand up and say ‘Super Soils’ would solve all his clients’ problems – he talked about if Super Soils as if they were a magic wand. It was also easy for him to say, Smithfield makes a billion dollars a year, and if it’d just spend $500 million to put Super Soils on all its hog farms these problems would go away.But Super Soils isn’t a magic wand. And what happens to our economy if the cost of raising hogs in North Carolina goes up $500 million? Who gets hurt? In this trial a lot of people, and not just farmers, have a stake in the verdict.