FILE- In this July 21, 2017, file a hog house is reflected in an adjacent waste pond at a farm that has hogs owned by Smithfield Foods in Farmville, N.C. Jury selection began Tuesday, May 29, 2018, in a Raleigh federal courthouse for the second trial over claims the method in which Hong Kong-owned, Virginia-based Smithfield Foods raises hogs caused a number of problems for neighbors after the operations moved in. (Gerry Broome, File/Associated Press)

RALEIGH, N.C. — Lawmakers in the country’s No. 2 hog-raising state are pushing ahead with protection for agribusiness by all but blocking neighbors who suffer nuisances from suing farm operations.

A North Carolina House committee on Tuesday approved the proposal that was unveiled and passed the Senate in the past week.

Supporters say sharply restricting nuisance lawsuits against agribusinesses will keep alive rural towns that turned to livestock after the tobacco and textile collapsed.

Opponents say nuisance lawsuits are one of the last tools left to force change from an industrial-scale hog industry that hasn’t changed despite decades of complaints about open-air waste pits emptied by spraying on fields.

A federal jury recently hit pork giant Smithfield Foods with $51 million in penalties after neighbors complained for years about smells and other nuisances.

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