Dear Editor: I’m proud to be a Madison County farmer. I raise beef cattle and poultry.

As Americans, we’re used to having our grocery stores well-stocked with a variety of foods, available 24/7. The majority of the food at our local stores is grown in the U.S. Many commodities, such as poultry, eggs, beef, milk, fresh vegetables and fruit are grown by Georgia farmers.

We’ve recently seen the toilet paper and bread aisles at our grocery stores emptied due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is expected to be temporary. Imagine how our grocery stores might look if our Georgia farmers are shut down due to nuisance lawsuits.

For about 40 years Georgia farmers have relied on an existing Right-to-Farm law to protect us from nuisance lawsuits when new neighbors move in and sue the farmer next to them because they don’t like the dust, the noise or odors of our farms.

In recent years, a series of lawsuits have been filed against family livestock farmers in a nearby Southern state. That state’s Right-to-Farm law was essentially the same as Georgia’s. A judge hearing the cases said the state’s law didn’t protect the farmers against the nuisance claims. As a result of the lawsuits, the livestock farmers are no longer raising animals.

This is why farmers across Georgia are supporting House Bill 545. We need a state Right-to-Farm law that eliminates existing subjective language that lawyers can use to shut down our farms.

Lawyers, environmental groups and others who don’t like how farmers raise our animals and crops are behind most of the incorrect information being spread statewide about HB 545. People currently suing farmers have submitted editorials opposing HB 545 that have run in papers across the state.

Opponents of HB 545 say this legislation will allow farmers to pollute our soil, water and air. This isn’t true. Farmers have to obtain permits to manage livestock manure produced on our farms and licenses to apply pesticides to our crops. There are strict environmental regulations farmers must follow for storing manure or applying it to our land as fertilizer to protect the environment. The same goes for farmers who use pesticides and herbicides to protect our crops from insects and diseases. This bill doesn’t change a single one of these standards.

HB 545 wouldn’t protect farmers whose practices are negligent, improper or illegal. It wouldn’t protect a farm violating any state or federal environmental laws and regulations enforced by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, U.S. Environmental Protection Division or other regulatory agencies. This legislation also wouldn’t keep farmers from having to comply with county, state or federal laws related to zoning.

Nuisance lawsuits aren’t limited to livestock producers. They can be filed against all types of farmers if a neighbor doesn’t like the sound of our equipment or how we grow our crops.

I’m asking my state senator to vote in favor of HB 545. If you value Georgia farmers, I encourage you to do the same.

Sincerely,

Thomas Harrell

Commerce

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