Editorial: January/February 2013
By Margaret LandFeatures New Technology Production Business/Policy Environment Protection Sustainability United States
Happy New Year, Hudson family!
Alan and Kristin Hudson, fourth-generation poultry producers, received fantastic news this past December – a federal judge in Baltimore, Md., ruled against the Waterkeeper Alliance in a lawsuit that pitted the Berlin, Md., farmers against the New York-based environmental group.
What a relief for the young family.
The 50-page decision brings an end to the legal nightmare that has haunted the Hudson family since 2009, when a flyover of their farm led to the investigation of a pile of what was suspected to be poultry litter placed adjacent to a drainage ditch. The alleged litter actually turned out to be treated Class A bio-solids. Working in conjunction with the Maryland Department of Agriculture and the Maryland Department of the Environment, the Hudsons moved the pile, cleaned up the area and were cleared of any wrongdoing by the state agencies. But the Waterkeeper Alliance persisted in moving forward with a lawsuit against farm and poultry integrator Perdue Farms, alleging that dust from ventilation equipment and litter tracked out by boots and vehicle tires was polluting nearby waterways and, ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay.
Senior U.S. District Judge William M. Nickerson disagreed.
“The court has no disagreement with (the) plaintiff that the Chesapeake Bay is an important and vital resource, that it is seriously impaired, and that the runoff from factory farms, including poultry operations, may play a significant role in that impairment,” he stated in his decision. “Nor does the court disagree that citizen suits under the Clean Water Act can play a significant role in filling the void where state regulatory agencies are unable or unwilling to take appropriate legal action against offenders. When citizen groups take up that mantle, however, they must do so responsibly and effectively. The court finds that in this action, for whatever reason, Waterkeeper did not meet that obligation.”
Judge Nickerson’s decision was met with enthusiasm by the Save Family Farms organization, which has helped the Hudson family both financially and emotionally.
“Judge Nickerson’s ruling reinforced what the Maryland Department of the Environment concluded three years ago: That Alan and Kristin have not done anything wrong and are not guilty of violating the Clean Water Act,” said Lee Richardson, president of the Wicomico County Farm Bureau and a member of Save Family Farms. “The Hudsons were unjustly accused in a witch hunt by the Assateague Coastal Trust, the Waterkeeper Alliance and their agenda against modern agriculture.
“We are grateful that justice prevailed and common sense won the day. However, we remain concerned that other farmers will suffer the same fate as the Hudsons at the hands of bullies armed with millions of celebrity fueled dollars and an attitude of taking farmers down at all costs, with or without evidence.”
Save Family Farms is urging Judge Nickerson to award legal costs to the Hudsons and Perdue Farms and is asking the Assateague Coastal Trust, the Waterkeeper Alliance and the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic, which argued the Waterkeeper’s case, to issue a public apology to the Hudsons and the taxpayers of Maryland, “who unwillingly financed this wasteful lawsuit.”
While Alan and Kristin Hudson express relief at the end of the lawsuit and the uncertainty that has faced their family and farm, the Waterkeeper Alliance said it is considering appealing the case.
Hopefully, Waterkeeper and the UM Environmental Law Clinic drop this issue completely. Enough time and money has been wasted on an issue that was moot from the beginning. The Hudson family has suffered enough from the Waterkeeper’s ineptness. Leave them alone.
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