BREAKING NEWS: Maryland Judge Rules Against Environmental Activists in Waterkeeper Trial

The U.S. District Court of Maryland this morning found in favor of Perdue Farms’ grower Hudson Farms in a case filed against them by Waterkeeper Alliance Inc.

The lawsuit, filed in March 2010 by the Waterkeeper’s Alliance, accused in a civil suit that Berlin, Maryland, farmers Alan and Kristin Hudson and Perdue Farms, for whom the Hudsons are contract growers, violated the Clean Water Act. The violation was based on a pile of material on the property that was erroneously assumed to be chicken manure, but was instead municipal sewage sludge from Ocean City, Maryland, that was used to fertilize crops. The Maryland Department of the Environment inspected the farm, confirmed the pile was biosolids, asked the Hudsons to move the pile, and the Hudsons complied.

Lawyers for the Waterkeeper’s Alliance then argued manure leaving the poultry houses from ventilation fans and foot traffic polluted a ditch along the farm which leads to the Pocomoke River – a claim that Judge Nickerson denied today.

Perdue released the following statement after the ruling:

“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.”

“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.”

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.

National Chicken Council President Mike Brown released the following statement in response to today’s ruling:

“Governor O’Malley said it best – that this unfair attack on a family farm represented an ‘ongoing injustice.’ The National Chicken Council and many other farm, agriculture, meat and poultry groups both inside and outside of Delmarva have stood solidly together in support of the Hudson’s during this case – a case that was based on frivolous assumptions rather than facts from the beginning.

“We feel like this was a lawsuit against all of us, and we are pleased that Judge Nickerson ruled that the Waterkeeper Alliance had not met the standard of preponderance of evidence in its argument.

“Today’s ruling is a win for Delmarva’s family farmers and against radical environmental activists who disregard the facts, sue first and ask questions later.”

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