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State Limits Damages for Farm Nuisances

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (CN) - Missouri lawmakers sent the governor a bill that will cap the amount people can win in nuisance lawsuits against agricultural producers, and the number of nuisance complaints they can file.

The House passed the bill by 110-45 vote, after the Senate approved it.

The bill allows only people who own at least part of the affected land to file a complaint against farming operations for a temporary nuisance, such as foul odors from hog farms.

If a property owner files multiple complaints against the same farm for the same nuisance, it would be considered a permanent nuisance. Property owners can seek damages based on the decline in their property's fair market value.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Casey Guernsey, R-Bethany, told The Associated Press that the goal is to protect agricultural producers from being forced out of business by multiple lawsuits. Last year, Premium Standard Farms warned that it might have to leave Missouri if it continued to be the target of nuisance lawsuits, which have resulted in multimillion-dollar awards against it.

Opponents said the bill will allow large hog farms that produce foul odors to move into areas and hurt property values. The hog farms could then buy out their neighbors on the cheap.

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