The Wicomico County, Maryland Young Farmers and Ranchers, the Maryland Farm Bureau, and Perdue Farms have announced the launch of SaveFarmFamilies.org, a group of agriculture interests who have come together to raise much-needed funds for the legal defense of a Berlin, Maryland farm family involved in a protracted and crippling lawsuit with the New York-based Waterkeeper Alliance since March 2010.

Kristin Hudson and children on farm sued by "Waterkeepers"

The Waterkeeper Alliance filed a federal lawsuit against Alan and Kristin Hudson accusing them of violating the Maryland Clean Water Act.  At the heart of this suit is a pile of fertilizer, believed by the Waterkeepers to be poultry litter, which the activists identified from a small plane they flew over the Hudsons’ property.  Since the suit was filed, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) confirmed the pile was actually biosolids, which the Hudsons obtained from nearby Ocean City, as part of a successful environmental program to recycle municipal waste for agricultural purposes.  MDE determined that no action was required other than to spread the biosolids on the farm’s crops.

However, the Waterkeepers have persisted with the lawsuit, which has put a massive financial strain on the Hudson family and could force a settlement or bankruptcy while they wait to make their arguments in court sometime in 2012. In their suit, the Waterkeeper Alliance contends the Hudson property is a “factory farm,” despite the fact that it has only two chicken houses and has been farmed by members of the Hudson family for four generations.

SaveFarmFamilies.org is concerned because, if successful, the Waterkeepers’ bankruptcy-by-litigation tactic could be a damaging precedent for America’s family farmers, who could be dragged into court just for following everyday farming practices.

“The Waterkeeper’s litigation is a job killer for Maryland,” said Lee Richardson, a member of the Wicomico County Young Farmers and Ranchers and SaveFarmFamilies.org. “If this extremist group succeeds in forcing the Hudson family to settle or declare bankruptcy before arguments are even heard in court, they’ll do it to other family farmers here and across the country, just because we don’t conform to the Waterkeepers misguided image of how animals should be raised.”

The lawsuit marks a watershed moment for the agriculture community, particularly in Maryland, where the farming industry plays a large role in the state’s economy and is responsible for 14 percent of its workforce, the largest percentage of any sector in the state. Many local farmers believe that if this lawsuit proceeds it would open up the flood gate for more frivolous litigation.

“By pursuing this malicious lawsuit, this extremist group is sending a message to American farmers: if you raise chickens, hogs or cattle–and don’t do it their way–then the Waterkeeper Alliance is willing to use the courts to force you out of business,” said Val Connelly, with the Maryland Farm Bureau and SaveFarmFamilies.org.

SaveFarmFamilies.org encourages members of the agriculture community and those who care about sustaining family farming to visit Savefarmfamilies.org, to learn about the threats and consequences of misguided environmental litigation and to make a donation to the Hudsons’ legal defense fund.

“The Hudsons can’t do it alone, they need help,” said Richardson. “This lawsuit is just the start, and we need to send a loud and clear signal to these radical groups, otherwise there will be dire consequences for family farms across the state of Maryland and around the country. We need to act now, or we could lose a great American asset–our farming community.”

For more information visit: www.savefarmfamilies.org.

 

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