May 11, 2017

When Mountaire Farms, one of the big poultry producers, announced 65 new jobs, Governor Cooper sang their praise and the importance of agriculture.

“These new, good-paying jobs mean better opportunities for hard-working people and their communities in Scotland County,” Cooper said. “Agriculture has a long and proud history in North Carolina and Mountaire Farms’ new state-of-the-art operations are a sign that the agriculture industry has a bright future here.”

But a few months later, when a bipartisan group of Legislators passed a law enforcing our Right to Farm by protecting farmers from lawsuits by trial lawyer sharks alleging their farms are a nuisance, Governor Cooper vetoed it. The bipartisan legislation limits damages to actual property value losses, not nebulous claims, when a neighboring property owner says the farm’s activity is a nuisance.

Here is how the Farm Bureau described the lawsuits: “For more than two decades, two out-of-state trial lawyers have made millions suing farmers across the country. Four years ago, they came to North Carolina and started picking fights between about 90 hog farms and their neighbors, alleging the farms were nuisances,” the text states. “The lawyers told the neighbors they could recover substantial damages far exceeding the value of their homes. They didn’t ask the farmers to address the alleged nuisances—they just asked for money.”

The out-of-state legal sharks have been replaced by local sharks ready for a big payday. Cooper’s veto might be worth millions for them.

So why would the Governor side with trial lawyers instead of agriculture after saluting corporate mega farms like Mountaire? Money.

The Follow the Money website shows legal shark-in-chief Mona Lisa Wallace gave $3,100 to Cooper – and hundreds of thousands more poured in from other lawyers. A group running interference for the lawsuits – the Riverkeepers Alliance – is part of the North Carolina Environmental Partnership, which ran $1.6 million in ads attacking Governor McCrory.

A couple of thoughts come to mind: Good ol’ Roy has long forgotten those days he used to brag about cropping tobacco on the family farm. And Judas sold out too cheap.

Let’s hope reformers on Jones Street complete the veto override and protect the men and women who put quality food on our tables at prices we can afford.