107 Iowa L. Rev. Online 19 (2022)
In 1611 an English appellate court upheld a sizeable damage verdict against a hog farmer who erected a hog stye immediately adjacent to a neighbor's home. The court ruled that the concentration of hogs outside the neighbor's window created a stench that corrupted the quality of air in the neighbor's home. By deliberately so doing, the hog farmer was liable in nuisance damages for unreasonably interfering with the neighbor's right to breath clean and healthy air.
Hog farming has changed dramatically in the ensuing 400 years, particularly with respect to the prevalent modern practice of raising large numbers of hogs indoors in concentrated animal feeding operations—CAFOs. Nuisance law on the other hand remained quite stable over the centuries until the 1990s. At that point a few states, striving to compete more aggressively to attract CAFOs, began rewriting their traditional right-to-farm laws to provide protections to CAFOs against neighbors' nuisance actions, or to limit the damages successful nuisance plaintiffs could collect, or both.
This Article will take a close look at the federal, state, and local laws regulating CAFOs, and explore why a nuisance suit may be the only practical recourse for a neighbor to protect their property from pollution from the overpowering odor and possibly dangerous effluents and emissions emanating from a nearby CAFO. It will also explain that the underlying problem in the CAFO v. neighbor dynamic is the gross inadequacy of the conventional process used universally by CAFOs to manage the huge volumes of animal wastes they generate. Until this manure management problem is solved, CAFOs will continue to spawn conflicts with rural neighbors and create environmental issues for the community in which they are located.