While many Americans enjoy juicy steaks, crispy chicken drumsticks, and other beef, pork, and chicken products, few want these meals to be farmed right next door. This is even more true when these meats come not from a free-range farm or ranch, but a confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) that packs a large amount of livestock into a relatively small area. Can you prevent a CAFO from setting up shop near your home? Read on to learn more about your legal rights if a CAFO makes plans to move into your neighborhood.
What is required before a CAFO can move in?
Both the federal government and various state governments regulate the licensing and permitting of CAFOs. In most states, farms applying to establish (or move) a CAFO will need to apply for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit through the state's agricultural licensing agency. In this application, the owners will have to set forth a concrete plan to manage animal waste and prevent groundwater contamination before the state will approve the construction or move of a CAFO. A few states, like Idaho and New Mexico, have no state NPDES permitting process, requiring residents to petition the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) directly.
Many state and local governments will also require CAFO owners to participate in a public forum to answer residents' questions and concerns. Depending upon local zoning restrictions, these entities may be able to block or deny the CAFO owner's request to set up shop in the area.
What can you do to prevent this move from taking place?
If you have strong objections to the placement of a CAFO near your home, there are a few options. The first is to investigate to ensure the proper permitting has taken place and to request a copy of the CAFO's NPDES permit application. This will give you an idea of the proposed scope of the CAFO and the owners' plans for waste disposal.
You'll then want to participate in any local meetings on the topic and make your voice heard. You may also want to contact your state representative or other elected officials to voice your displeasure and request assistance. Many groups of homeowners have successfully lobbied their local zoning boards to prevent the construction of a CAFO in their neighborhoods.
If you're unsuccessful in stopping the CAFO and your property values plummet as a result of the smell and sounds coming from your new neighbors, you may be able to file a civil lawsuit against the CAFO owners for an unlawful "taking" of your home's equity. You'll need to consult an environmental attorney to determine the merits of your claim and how much you might be able to recover at trial. Find one through a firm like Moore Smith Buxton & Turcke-Chartered.