The Iowa Supreme Court has reversed a longtime precedent that allowed landowners to sue neighboring hog farmers for causing water pollution or causing odors.

Photo by Bob van Aubel on Unsplash
Photo by Bob van Aubel on Unsplash
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The decision to let landowners sue these farmers date back to 2004, but on Thursday the court voted in a 4-3 decision to reverse it.

According to the Associated Press, the ruling from 2004 established partial immunity to livestock farms from neighbors’ nuisance lawsuits. Neighbors could sue hog farmers if they lived in the area where the farm was before the farm began operation, sustained significant hardship, and didn’t benefit from nuisance immunity that is granted to the livestock operation.

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In the AP article, Justice Thomas Waterman wrote in the decision that “protecting and promoting livestock production is a legitimate state interest, and granting partial immunity from nuisance suits is a proper means to that end.”

The decision also comes as a blow to landowners in rural areas of Iowa making it more difficult to take legal action against expanding hog farms.

Thursday’s ruling doesn’t mean that property owners can’t sue farms when they don’t follow state or federal regulations or when the farmer doesn't use generally accepted management practices.

Photo by Amber Kipp on Unsplash
Photo by Amber Kipp on Unsplash
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In the AP article, James Pray, a lawyer in the Supreme Court case says the decision is “the Iowa legislature’s role in striking a balance between the right to farm and the impact on those who choose to live in rural Iowa.”

Proponents against the ruling say that the supreme court is telling property owners to “take one for the team” when their neighbors are hog owners.

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