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Misuse of State Right to Farm Acts

Most states have enacted Right to Farm Act legislation that protects farmers from nuisance complaints from encroaching urban developments. But a number of farmers are misusing this legislation to operate their farms as unlicensed landfills. This can cause harmful contaminants that would otherwise be captured within a landfill liner, to leak into groundwater and aquifers.


How are farmers allowed to dump chemicals onto their fields? 

Many states allow farmers to use mixtures of leftover organic materials from industrial producers on their fields to help return elements, such as Nitrogen, to their fields.  These mixtures often take the form of sludge and are called soil amendments.

Most states required that they be tested, labeled, and only applied in amounts that are beneficial to the soil. Farmers must also register with the state’s Department of Environment or Agriculture to register their fields to accept soil amendments as part of a Nutrient Management Plan.

Yet, some industrial entities, such as meat packers or slaughterhouses produce such large quantities of leftover organic matter that they turn to farmers as a cheap alternative to paying for proper disposal.

What are the dangers of accepting sludge?

Air Quality: One of the more common issues is air quality. When farmers accept sludge from industry, particularly meat packers, the decaying flesh can cause extreme odors that can cause a nuisance for neighbors for miles downwind.


Water Quality: If the producer fails to properly test the sludge, dangerous chemicals, such as industrial solvents, can migrate into the water table and pollute drinking water.


Agricultural Yields: In some cases, farmers receive more money from accepting sludge than they do from the farming practices they initially sought to support with the sludge. In these cases, farmers forgo raising crops or measuring soil nutrient content and instead focus on accepting as much sludge as possible. This leaves the fields with wrecked soil.


What should you do if you are a farmer accepting sludge or live next to a farm accepting unlawful sludge?

If you are farmer, verify the contents of each soil amendment before application. Verify that the producer has performed testing and that you are not over-applying.


If you are aware of a farmer accepting sludge and it is affecting your air or water, please contact us. We are currently litigating these cases in several states.