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Poultry Producers Prevail in Environment Lawsuit

21 December 2012

US - The Waterkeeper Alliance, the Assateague Coastal Trust, and the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic have lost their lawsuit claiming a Maryland farm family violated the Clean Water Act and that the company that contracts with them to raise chickens controls the farm.

Judge William M. Nickerson of the US District Court in Baltimore, Maryland, has ruled against the plaintiffs, saying they did not prove their case against Perdue Farms Inc. and contract chicken growers Alan and Kristin Hudson of Berlin, Maryland.

In an order issued on 20 December 2012, the judge held that the New York-based Waterkeeper Alliance, headed by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and the Assateague Coastal Trust "has failed to meet its burden of establishing that there was a discharge of pollution from the poultry operation on the Hudson Farm."

"We are thrilled with today’s ruling, which clearly is a resounding victory for Perdue and farm families everywhere," said Julie DeYoung, Perdue’s spokesperson. "We congratulate the Hudsons on their long-overdue exoneration. We are also pleased that the judge upheld existing law that safeguards the contractor relationship and confirms the independence of thousands of family farms who choose to raise poultry and livestock. This is a good day for Maryland and for agriculture."

According to Ms DeYoung, the Waterkeepers put an innocent farm family through hell and tried to drive a wedge between farmers and responsible environmentalists. Evidence presented during the trial showed that the Waterkeeper Alliance and the Assateague Coastal Trust were determined to file a lawsuit against a poultry farm affiliated with a major chicken producer and went looking for a victim in flights over the Eastern Shore.

"As Judge Nickerson pointed out in his Summary Judgment letter, they went looking for someone to sue, and when they found a large pile on the Hudson Farm that they thought was chicken manure, they thought they had their 'bad apple'," she said. "The pile turned out to be legal biosolids from nearby Ocean City. But the Waterkeepers persisted with their lawsuit anyway, changing their arguments throughout the case. Perdue and the Hudsons were convenient targets in the Waterkeeper Alliance’s national campaign against modern agriculture. The Assateague Coastal Trust and University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic were enthusiastic partners in this reckless witch-hunt against Maryland farmers."

Ms DeYoung added that Perdue has a long history of investing in research, new technologies, equipment upgrades, awareness and training to address environmental issues. "Perdue is the only company that, through Perdue AgriRecycle, offers poultry growers across Delmarva an alternative to land application of chicken litter. We believe it is possible to preserve the family farm and provide a safe, abundant and affordable food supply, while protecting our communities and the environment. We look forward to continuing to work with responsible environmental groups that recognize agriculture’s role in preserving open spaces and protecting the Bay," she said.

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