Last month, a judge ruled in favor of a Maryland family farmer and poultry industry giant Perdue Farms. The ruling marked an end to a lawsuit that pitted agriculture against environmentalists. Now it appears that the legal drama for both parties may be far from over.
The lawsuit, filed by the Waterkeeper Alliance, dates back to 2009 when another environmentalist group, the Assateague Coastkeeper, flew a plane over Kristin and Alan Hudson's farm and reported what appeared to be a pile of chicken manure draining into a nearby ditch. The material was later confirmed by the Maryland Department of the Environment to be treated sewage sludge from Ocean City, Md., which was used by the farm as fertilizer. Despite the corrected information, the Waterkeeper Alliance proceeded with its lawsuit. Click here to read more about the lawsuit.
Many in the agriculture field watched the case closely as the decision reverberated far beyond the courtroom. Had the Waterkeeper Alliance been successful, it could have set a harmful precedent for many of the country’s large- and small-scale family farms.
The judge may have announced his ruling, but both sides are mulling further legal action.
For Perdue and Alan Hudson, it’s attempting to win at least $3 million in attorney fees, according to a report by the Capital Gazette. Hudson’s lawyer, George F. Ritchie, pointed that the lawsuit and subsequent trial did “nothing but demonstrate the irresponsible and frivolous nature of Plaintiff’s claims.” Click here to read the Capital Gazette article.
Waterkeeper Alliance, however, may still appeal the judge’s ruling. The group threatened in October 2012 to appeal the verdict if they don't agree with it, but would first review the judge's opinion to consider an appeal. A report by Associated Press shows that the delay in the group’s final decision on the appeal is partly due to Hurricane Sandy, which flooded the group’s offices. Read, “Environmentalists Disappointed By Perdue Lawsuit.”
In an opinion piece published on Delmarva Now, Republican Maryland State Senator Richard Colburn believes that it is time to put the case to rest.
“To pursue an appeal of Judge Nickerson’s ruling would only further harm a farm family already cleared of wrongdoing, and undermine future cooperation between agriculture and responsible environmental groups,” Colburn wrote in the letter available here.