Last day to oppose HB 1150 Bad Neighbor Bill in Georgia legislature 2022-04-04

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[Hog CAFO manure lagoons. Photo: Kemp Burdette]
Hog CAFO manure lagoons. Photo: Kemp Burdette.

Jeff Amy, U.S. News & World Report via AP, April 1, 2022,

The Senate voted 31-23 for House Bill 1150, sending it back to the House for final approval of changes.

Today is Sine Die, the last day before the legislature adjourns until next year. So there’s no time for a conference committee to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions of HB 1150. The House can only vote to approve the Senate version, or not.

The most important change made in the Senate was a deal to lengthen from one year to two years the amount of time someone has to sue over a nuisance after operations begin. Final passage would mark the end of a multi-year push by state and national farm groups seeking a new lawsuit protection measure to replace the one Georgia has had on the books for decades.

Yes, this year has played out very like two years ago. Except this time Farm Bureau and other proponents of this bill have managed to get it through the Senate and back to the House in time for a final vote on the last day.

“There’s hardly any farms that don’t have some development or some neighbors around them,” said Sen. Larry Walker, a Perry Republican.

That may be more true than not. So why does the bill remove definitions from the existing law, thus reducing protections?

Environmentalists and some small farmers worry the bill could open the way for farmers to make big changes that might hurt the ability of longtime neighbors to enjoy their property. They say nuisance suits are rare in Georgia, but the bill is being pushed by the meat industry to shield its farmers’ harmful activities.

“In real life, nuisances can take many years to manifest themselves,” said Sen. Freddie Powell Sims, a Dawson Republican. “Any time a new nuisance is created after the second year of operation, an affected neighbor has no recourse unless they can show the nuisance is a result of bad action, even if the affected neighbor was there first.”

This issue of large-scale animal operations has hung up previous attempts to change the law. The new proposal has a clause that says the one-year timeframe for a lawsuit would start over if an existing farm built what federal officials classify as a medium-sized or large concentrated animal feeding operation for cattle or poultry or a pig feeding operation of any size.

That last change is better than nothing. Well, except nothing would not need such a clause, because nothing would leave the existing law in place.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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