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Hearing to discuss farm nuisance bill

By M.J. Ellington (334) 262-1104

MONTGOMERY — The sponsor of a Senate bill to protect farm operations from nuisance lawsuits said her bill protects family farms like the one she grew up on.

Opponents, however, say the Family Farm Preservation Act protects high-density animal feed lots against lawsuits from nearby property owners fed up with animal waste, insects and declining property values.

The Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee moved Wednesday's public hearing on Sen. Kim Benefield's bill from the Statehouse to the Gordon Persons Building's auditorium across the street because the issue drew so many requests from people who wanted to speak.

Benefield, D-Woodland, grew up on a farm near Pine Hill. She said her fond memories of growing up on a farm are one reason she agreed to sponsor the bill for Alabama Farmers Federation. She believes family farms will disappear without help.

"If someone comes in and builds a house next to a farm, don't come back a year later and sue the farmer saying the farm stinks," Benefield said. She disputes the claim that her bill opens the door to large-scale animal feed lots.

Alabama Trial Lawyers Association spokesman Niko Corley said his organization disagrees. He said the bill could lead to more combined animal feeding lots. Animal-waste runoff from huge herds living in a small area, flying insects and reduced property values are among his group's concerns.

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