MARYLAND - We have just gotten word that a ruling has come down in the lawsuit involving a Berlin farmer and Perdue.
Assateague Coastal Trust confirms that the judge ruled in favor of Hudson Farm and Perdue. At this time the details are still limited but we will bring you more as it becomes available.
Statement by Marc Yaggi, executive director for Waterkeeper Alliance on today's decision by U.S. District Court Judge William M. Nickerson in the case of Waterkeeper Alliance Inc. v. Alan and Kristin Hudson Farm et al.:
"We are disappointed and disagree with Judge Nickerson's decision. We have demonstrated a strong case in which the facts and the law support our allegations that Perdue and the Hudson chicken CAFO continually polluted a river that ultimately flows into the Chesapeake Bay. We will review the decision and consider an appeal in this matter.
Regardless of this decision, the reality is that the Chesapeake Bay and waterways around the country are dying off from pollution and runoff from large industrial factory farms. This case highlighted serious flaws in the State's implementation of the Clean Water Act.
Forty years ago, in response to a growing environmental crisis, Congress enacted the Clean Water Act, which was designed to protect the waters we use for swimming, drinking, and fishing from increasing degradation. Its goal was to "restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity" of our nation's waterways", eliminate harmful discharges of pollution, and protect the nation's wetlands. Since the 1970s, when most current environmental laws and regulations were created, private citizens have played a vital role in enforcing these mandates through the energetic use of the citizen suit provisions that are contained in major federal environmental laws. The CWA is successful largely because it empowers ordinary citizens to participate in the implementation and enforcement of the program, providing the opportunity for each of us to act in a prosecutorial role. Waterkeeper Alliance and our 124 member organizations across the United States depend on these citizen suit provisions to help safeguard environmental and public health and safety."
Perdue released the following statement after the ruling.
"We are thrilled with today's ruling, which clearly is a resounding victory for Perdue and farm families everywhere," said Julie DeYoung, Perdue's spokesperson. "We congratulate the Hudsons on their long-overdue exoneration. We are also pleased that the judge upheld existing law that safeguards the contractor relationship and confirms the independence of thousands of family farms who choose to raise poultry and livestock. This is a good day for Maryland and for agriculture."
"As Judge Nickerson pointed out in his Summary Judgment letter, they went looking for someone to sue, and when they found a large pile on the Hudson Farm that they thought was chicken manure, they thought they had their ‘bad apple'," she said. "The pile turned out to be legal biosolids from nearby Ocean City. But the Waterkeepers persisted with their lawsuit anyway, changing their arguments throughout the case. Perdue and the Hudsons were convenient targets in the Waterkeeper Alliance's national campaign against modern agriculture. The Assateague Coastal Trust and University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic were enthusiastic partners in this reckless witch-hunt against Maryland farmers."
DeYoung added that Perdue has a long history of investing in research, new technologies, equipment upgrades, awareness and training to address environmental issues. "Perdue is the only company that, through Perdue AgriRecycle, offers poultry growers across Delmarva an alternative to land application of chicken litter. We believe it is possible to preserve the family farm and provide a safe, abundant and affordable food supply, while protecting our communities and the environment. We look forward to continuing to work with responsible environmental groups that recognize agriculture's role in preserving open spaces and protecting the Bay," she said.
Cambridge, Maryland – Senator Richard F. Colburn's (R-Mid Shore) released the following statements regarding today's ruling on the Hudson/Perdue lawsuit:
I was extremely pleased to hear the news today that the Hudson family and Perdue Farms were victorious in the lawsuit filed against them by the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic on behalf of the Waterkeeper Alliance and Assateague Coastkeeper. From day one it has been clear that this lawsuit was nothing more than an attempt by the Alliance and Coastkeeper to go after a large poultry operation that was perceived to be the sole cause for pollution in Eastern Shore waterways. Because they could not just go after Perdue alone, they trumped up violations against a fourth generation farm family through malicious tactics of aerial photographs and water testing of water in a public area near a creek which they incorrectly alleged was runoff from the farm. Somewhere during the proceedings the case mysteriously changed from a Clean Water Act violation case to a Clean Air Act violation case when the Law Clinic alleged dust from chicken house blowers were polluting the air. To add further insult to injury, the Waterkeeper Alliance, a well funded organization, retained the services of the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic at no cost to them instead passing the cost of this lawsuit on to the taxpayers of Maryland. As Mr. Hudson once said, it was like he was suing himself. The Hudsons' in turn were forced to find their own costly legal counsel, never being given the option of utilizing legal resources that were made available to the Waterkeeper Alliance. It is my belief the documented professional and personal relationship between Environmental Law Clinic professor Jane Barrett and Assateague Coastkeeper Kathy Phillips may have been one of the reasons for this. As we move past this first stage and win for Perdue and the Hudsons', I am sure the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic and Waterkeeper Alliance, at the recommendation of Jane Barrett, will attempt to file an appeal and continue to use tax payer money to fight her cause. In a time when Maryland taxpayers are already being asked to increase their share of the heavy burden of our state's deficit, it would be wrong to ask them to continue to fund Ms. Barrett's fight.
Statement from Maryland Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance about the Court Ruling in Waterkeeper Alliance, Inc. v. Alan Hudson et al
"Poultry is the largest agricultural sector in Maryland, and it is critically important to Maryland's economic health. The Chesapeake Bay is one of our greatest national treasures and it restoration is critical to our state's environmental health. Judge Nickerson's ruling today goes a long way toward ensuring that both our agricultural heritage and our effort to restore the Bay can move forward cooperatively and in harmony, rather than through damaging litigation. Maryland has been working diligently and more successfully than many other states to ensure that our agricultural operations are managed in a way that protects water quality."
A Statement from Assateague Coastal Trust
"This case has always been about stopping water pollution. Assateague Coastal Trust initiated it to address the continuing pollution found coming off the Hudson's farm in more than a dozen water samples taken over a seven month period. We also initiated it because we think poultry integrators have the duty to share the burden created by manure generated by the flocks they grow. We feel it is unfair to leave individual farmers the nearly impossible job of handling the manure in an environmentally responsible way.
We are disappointed Judge Nickerson did not agree with our argument. We continue to believe that the testimony and evidence presented clearly demonstrated that the poultry CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) continuously polluted the waters of the state, and that both Alan Hudson and Perdue should be held accountable. And although the judge did not find in our favor, it is clear the testimony in this trial illuminated some important facts.
First, the testimony of Perdue employees showed that every aspect of the operation of the poultry business on the Hudson Farm was controlled by Perdue.
It also revealed that both the Nutrient Management Plan (NMP) process and the new Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP) General Permit process are seriously flawed.
This trial has re-invigorated the public discourse on the matter of poultry waste management in the State of Maryland.
We all have a right to clean water, and our organization, Assateague Coastal Trust, will continue to defend that right. When the State won't act to protect our waters, when the federal government won't act, then we local citizens must. We must take the action needed to stop the pollution and protect our families' safety and the health of our waters."