Last Friday, House Bill 467: Agriculture and Forestry Nuisance Remedies was vetoed – an action that put the interests of plaintiff attorneys before those of job creators in North Carolina’s agriculture and the agribusiness sector. This alarming veto forsakes one of the state’s greatest economic contributors, giving power to frivolous lawsuits that clog our legal system, impede job creation and weaken our competitive legal climate.
House Bill 467 sought to clarify North Carolina’s law regulating available damages in nuisance lawsuits filed against farms by establishing a clear rule for applying those damages. This reform effort followed a federal judge’s 2015 ruling that North Carolina’s current law regulating nuisance lawsuits is unclear. In an attempt to remedy this ambiguity in our legal system, House Bill 467 would have limited damages awarded in nuisance lawsuits to the full market value of a property. This legislation would not only have strengthened North Carolina’s competitive legal climate – a major factor in determining a state’s overall competitiveness – but would have also aided the state’s agriculture industry by allowing farmers to focus on their operations instead of battling frivolous lawsuits and exorbitant legal fees.
Following the veto, Lew Ebert, president and CEO of the NC Chamber, released a statement, which read in part, “[t]his anti-jobs veto spurns North Carolina farmers and fails to remedy ambiguity plaguing our state’s legal system. The NC Chamber is deeply troubled by this veto and will continue to advocate for measures that strengthen our legal climate and support our job creators.” This affront to an industry that accounts for one-sixth of the state’s income and employees, in addition to $84 billion of the state’s $482 billion gross state product, is baffling. North Carolina’s competitive advantage and economic prosperity are clearly reliant on the success of the state’s agriculture and agribusiness sector, which is why any measure hindering the agriculture industry’s ability to grow ultimately causes North Carolina to suffer.
In order for North Carolina and the state’s economic drivers to remain competitive in the modern economy, it is essential that certainty and clarity are established in legal affairs. As expressed in our initial statement on the veto, the NC Chamber will continue fighting for commonsense reforms that will strengthen our state’s legal climate so that job creators, like our state’s farmers, can continue doing what they do best.
Gary J. Salamido
Vice President, Government Affairs
North Carolina Chamber