Paul Dagostin's barn, which houses nearly 5,000 hogs in Salem Township, Pennsylvania, is in the crosshairs of some nearby residents.
"They want to shut me down because of the smell," said the 45-year-old, third-generation farmer. Dagostin, who is married and has two small daughters, said he built the barn last year after taking out a business loan of a million dollars—and after meeting all township and state requirements.
"Now they are threatening me with a $20 million lawsuit. I don't think they can shut me down, but I'll have to hire lawyers to fight this," said Dagostin, who raises hogs supplied by Country View Family Farms.
What some in the township of 4,000 people want—and others in several farmland towns across the country want as well—is to change zoning and other laws in order to limit neighborhood farms from becoming more industrialized. The focus is stopping the pollution, such as bad odors or contaminated water from runoff, that may come with larger farms.
"It's a big issue especially in parts of the country like the Southeast where they produce a lot of hogs," said John O'Brien, an agribusiness lawyer at Snell & Wilmer and a wheat and corn farmer.
"If you're in a state like North Carolina or California with a humid climate, the odors can carry up to 15 or 20 miles," said O'Brien, whose firm has helped secure financing for farm expansions. "We're likely to see more of this as urban sprawl creeps closer to farms."
The fight is dividing the southwestern Pennsylvania community, said Joshua Kishbaugh, chairman of the Salem Township Board of Supervisors.
"We are pro-farm, but when you take a family farm and make it bigger, you affect everyone," said Kishbaugh. "Sometimes the smell from the hog farm almost makes you throw up."