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Quick Ruling Expected in Maryland Chicken Manure Trial

A fast-moving, but emotional civil trial pitting environmentalists against family farmers could end in the next day or two with a ruling by U.S. District Judge William M. Nickerson in Baltimore.

At issue is whether common practices for handling chicken manure violate the federal Clean Water Act.

The trial, which Judge Nickerson is hearing without a jury, is expected to wrap-up today or tomorrow after the defense rests. It began two weeks ago.

Alan Hudson, the 37-year old owner of a diversified farm on Maryland’s Eastern Shore that has been in his family for four generations testified last week.

Hudson was asked about how the lawsuit against his farm and Perdue Inc., has traumatized his children because they now fear losing the only  home they’ve ever known.

The farm had not contracted with Perdue Inc.to raise chickens until Hudson got into the business when he was 19. The farm’s poultry operation has never faced a government charge of discharging pollutants.

The sole remaining plaintiff, New York City-based Waterkeepers Alliance has already presented its case.

Bruce A. Bell, an environmental engineer and expert witness in water pollution cases, testified that the Hudson chicken operations would “most likely” be a contributor to water pollution.

Bell also said dried particles on fans used to vent the chicken houses could also be a specific source. Hudson said the dried particles Bell was concerned about are too light to be chicken manure.

The civil case has been controversial from the beginning, especially after environmentalists claimed a pile of material they observed from the air was chicken manure and filed the lawsuit.

That pile, however, was found to consist of bio-soils for a project with a nearby town. Except for Waterkeepers, all of the other original plaintiffs were removed from the case for lack of credibility.

Also, there have been many objections to the University of Maryland’s environmental law clinic representing the environmental side of the case against one of the state’s oldest family farms.

In a pretrial memo to the attorneys, Nickerson outlined how he could go either way with his ruling. The memo, however, did not spur a pretrial settlement.

© Food Safety News
  • Toma

    Cue up the violin music — here’s Big Chicken playing the family farmer card — when, through secretive and exploitive contracts the “farmers” have been relegated to factory farm workers where their only ownership are the CAFO buildings, the manure and the dead chickens which succumb to the fetid and toxic concentration camp conditions of the Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFOs). 

    It’s the Big Chicken Corporations that supply the feed laced with arsenic to stimulate feeding — and Big Chicken should be held responsible for contamination of soil and water resources. But with the ole’ Corporate slight-of-hand their corporate personhood allows them to continually pass on the nasty costs to our health and environment while reaping the Profits.

    Meanwhile Big Chick hides behind the skirts of the honest family farmers who are trapped in the CAFO agribusiness scheme of Get Big  or Get Out…

    • Salem

       Tin foil hats all around!

      On with the CAFO witch hunt.

    • Rarebreeds

      Agreed 100%!  I’m an Animal Welfare Approved farm for laying hens and this would happen on my farm!
      Yeah, I like how the factory farms consider themselves “family farms”.  What a crock!

    • Thom Katt

      You are a troll.  Your only intention in posting it to make yourself feel righteously indignant.  You’re comments indicate little knowledge of the background of this litigation.  You are only throwing out hyperbolic statements that you have read elsewhere. 

      If you will undertake just a few minutes of reading, you will find that the primary defendant in the case is the owner of a small farm with very limited resources.  He certainly doesn’t have the equivalent legal assistance that he enviro group has (a tax payer supported university law clinic).

      With a little more research, you will also find that aresenic is no longer used in poultry feed and has not been for several years.

      As far as your last trollie statement, if you had any understanding of the current agriculture economic situation, you would learn that many small farmers are turning to production contracts to generate enough income for family living and payments on capital investments. Without contracting poultry and livestock production opportunities, many farmers would be forced to seek off farm employment and their farms would be little more than hobbies.  Contract production gives young farmers with small operations the chance to compete against the large corporate farms you rail about.

  • Bobwhid

    Environmental Health Specialist from Maryland.  Have met the family and have seen the farm.  This is a man trying to keep the family fed under less than ideal circumstances (as all modern farming has become).  He has been doing just this and within the limits of his contract and the law.  The problem began when someone used an airplane to fly over the Eastern Shore area in Maryland, snap pictures of stuff, and claim that one man is the cause of all the problems of the Chesapeake.  Is the Water Alliance truly a grass roots organization trying to help, or is it a sheeps cloak for wolves like the Sierra Club and John F. Kennedy, Jr trying to take down bid business no matter the collateral damage.  If you’re cueing that violin music, make sure its the theme from Schindler’s List, because the family farmer is being irradicated–unfortunately from both sides.

  • Sandra Miller

    That “family farmer” signed legal documents admitting his chicken operation was polluting in order to gain financial assistance from the government to improve his operation. Man-up and take responsibility for what you did to your family farm. 

  • I have a tremendous amount of respect for the Waterkeepers Alliance, but I have a feeling the decision is going to go against them.

    However, this isn’t an issue with “the state’s oldest farm”, this is an issue with the damage and destruction CAFOs do to the environment. 

    I don’t think anyone believes that CAFOs don’t do damage, because they do. The issue is whether this specific CAFO has done the damage it’s been accused of, and I don’t think the case is especially strong. Especially when the “family farm” fakery is being played in the court. 

    A little more objective view of the case can be found at