30 November, 2008 - NIMBY’s, Get a Life!

I think I am a tolerant person. I try very hard to be, and I think I succeed fairly well. But I admit there are times when I lose patience and I am at that point now with NIMBY’s, the “Not In My Back Yard” people. I have talked about NIMBY’s before, but I continue to hear from farmers and ranchers across the country who tell me they are unable to expand a farming or ranching operation because of neighbors, including many who have moved into the rural community who are able to put a stop to any of those plans.

Let me give you some examples. A few years ago a rural community in Wisconsin wanted to build an ethanol plant. But people who moved out from Madison to retire in the community decided they didn’t want an ethanol plant in their town, so they went to court and managed to stop it. Since their retirement income was in place, they didn’t need the income the plant would have provided local workers, much less the increased market for corn farmers in the area. NIMBY’s won, local people lost.

I’ve talked before about the community in western Wisconsin where I grew up. Four years ago a wind energy company started to contract with farmers to install turbines and pay them an annual lease fee, providing badly needed income to a suffering farm economy. Well, two retired couples from Chicago who moved there to retire in their idyllic rural home had the money to hire attorneys and file lawsuits to the point where the company will probably abandon its plans and move to another site. NIMBY’s win, locals lose.

Then there is the dairy family who wants to build a large dairy farm in northern Illinois and again neighbors, and in this case interestingly enough, not just from towns and cities but farmer neighbors as well, have gone to court to put a stop to those plans. This dairy has met all the state and county rules and regulations and would be operated by a reputable family who has a solid reputation in properly managing dairy farms. In addition, it would provide an excellent local market for farmers in the area who produce hay and livestock feed.

I’m beginning to wonder why states even pass “Right to Farm” laws, because somehow NIMBY’s and their attorneys are able to work around them, keeping projects tied up in the courts for years, to the point where farmers give up because they run out of money.

Once in awhile, farmers win and NIMBY’s lose. To those who go to court to stop agricultural expansion, take note of a recent case involving a hog producer in Illinois who was sued to put a stop to his expansion. The farmer fought the suit and after several court appearances, the judge ruled in favor of the producer. The judge then ruled that the plaintiffs who brought the suit were liable for all legal fees and are directed to pay those fees estimated at more than $200,000.00. Finally, some justice!

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