Smithfield Trial: An Odd Development

When you boil away all the motions and counter-motions the second nuisance trial against Smithfield Foods comes down to one question: Odor. Is odor from Joey Carter’s hog farm an unbearable nuisance for the two neighbors suing him?When the lawyers suing Smithfield presented their case they called an expert witness on odor, a professor from Clarkson University in New York, to testify – and Shane Rogers told the jury he’d proved scientifically that odor from hog farms had reached neighbors houses.Then an odd thing happened.When the time came for the lawyers for Smithfield Foods to call their own odor expert, to testify about her own scientific studies, and to explain why Rogers was wrong, the lawyer on the other side, Michael Kaeske, objected – telling the judge that he should not allow Dr. Pamela Dalton to testify about her scientific studies.And the judge agreed. And ruled Dr. Dalton couldn’t tell the jury what she’d found on the Carter farm as a scientist – though she could testify, subjectively, as someone who’d visited the farm.Doesn’t that sound odd? An expert couldn’t testify about her scientific studies measuring odor during a trial about odor? 

One Farmer's Story

web1_IMG_2106Last summer, the Bladen Journal wrote a story about Hilton Monroe who, along with his wife, raises hogs on his sixty-six acre farm near Clarkton.The reporter described how he and Monroe drove down a dirt road that wound through a forest and stopped by two hog houses – then wrote:

Upon stepping out of the vehicle, the first thing one might notice is the absence of something – an aroma. There was no odor. Of any kind. None. “People think hog houses really, smell, and I’m not trying to paint a pretty picture or say they don’t because they do, but not nearly as much as people think,” Monroe said. Even standing on the shore of the lagoon while Monroe took a water sample – which he’s required to do every 120 days to check the nitrogen level – there was no observable odor. Monroe explained that the plastic curtains lining the hog houses serve multiple functions, one of which is to contain any odor pollution. “I’ve been farming all my life, and I’ve never had a complaint from my closest neighbors,” he said, adding that people have even built houses on the other side of the trees that line the whole operation.

Next the reporter asked Monroe about the state regulations hog farmers deal with – then wrote:

The water samples and the plastic curtains are just two items in a long list of regulations to which Monroe must adhere. The houses must remain around 80 degrees Fahrenheit (give or take, depending on the hog’s size), and the temperature must be recorded on charts. The lagoon can never top a certain height or contain too much nitrogen. Spraying can only be done when the temperature and humidity are just right, and never within four days of a hurricane. A certain amount of acreage must be sprayed for every hog. No steroids to make hogs grow faster. And on and on. “I think regulations are a good thing – I think we should have them, and other hog farmers I know feel the same way, and we do our best to abide by the regulations,” he added. “If you’re going to be a hog farmer, you have to take care of the environment.”

The article ends with a simple question – the reporter asked Monroe why he’s a farmer: “I’m just a drop in the bucket helping to feed the world,” Hilton said. “It makes me feel good to know somebody, somewhere has food because of what I do.”