About The Hudson Lawsuit

In 2010, a Federal lawsuit was filed against Alan and Kristin Hudson by the New York-based Waterkeeper Alliance. The lawsuit accuses the Hudsons and co-defendant Perdue Farms of creating a “longstanding manure pile” that discharges pollutants via “trenches” into a field ditch in violation of the Clean Water Act. The Hudson Farm in fact has never had a “longstanding manure pile.” The Waterkeepers made this accusation because they mistakenly thought a lawfully obtained pile of biosolids, delivered to the farm from Ocean City, was chicken manure. Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) investigated the situation, asked the Hudsons to move the pile to a different location on the farm, and concluded that “no further action is required on [the Farm's] part other than to spread the [biosolid pile] in the spring for the next crop growing season.”

Despite this, the Waterkeepers have persisted in this lawsuit. They now contend that the Hudsons operate a “factory farm operation” and that pollutants from poultry manure have entered local waterways via the exhaust fans in the poultry houses, and through ordinary foot traffic as people enter and exit the houses in the daily care of their animals. This assertion is unsupported by any credible scientific evidence and appears to be a maneuver to keep legal and financial pressure on the Hudsons. The Waterkeepers attack on agriculture in Maryland is much more than the lawsuit against the Hudsons:


January 30, 2007

Erin Fitzsimons, the Chesapeake Regional Director for the Waterkeeper Alliance (Waterkeepers), is appointed Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler’s Special Assistant for the Environment.

February 2008

Waterkeepers and the UM Environmental Law Clinic file a lawsuit against the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) challenging MDA’s denial on privacy grounds of the Waterkeepers’ Public Information Act request seeking access to farmer NMPs. The MDA denial is based on its interpretation of state law limiting access to NMPs.

January 2, 2009

Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) announces its final determination to issue its Animal Feeding Operations (AFO) General Permit.

January 16, 2009

Waterkeepers commence challenge of MDE’s AFO General Permit before Maryland Office of Administrative Hearings.

March 2009

Hudson Farm begins accepting “Class A” sewage sludge or “biosolids” from Ocean City for use as fertilizer.

September 2, 2009

MDE Final Decision Maker issues final decision rejecting Waterkeepers’ challenge to AFO General Permit.

December 11, 2009

Assateague Coastkeeper and Kathy Phillips post aerial photographs on website of what they claim to be a chicken litter pile at Hudson Farm but is later determined to be Class A biosolids.

December 18, 2009 – January 25, 2010

MDE inspects Hudson Farm and concludes that the pile is not poultry manure, as alleged in the Waterkeepers’ Notice of Intent to sue, but rather treated biosolids obtained from Ocean City. An MDE inspection on January 7, 2010, confirms the pile has been moved away from farm ditches and covered with plastic.

March 3, 2010

Waterkeepers, Assateague Coastkeeper and Kathy Phillips file a federal lawsuit against Alan and Kristin Hudson Farm and Perdue Farms, Inc. alleging discharges in violation of the Clean Water Act.

April 2, 2010

UM Environmental Law Clinic files Public Information Act request with MDA seeking all documentation on nutrient management plans on farmers participating in manure transport program and all inspection results.

August 10, 2010

A federal court dismisses the Assateague Coastkeeper and Kathy Phillips as plaintiffs in the Hudson lawsuit. This ruling leaves Waterkeeper Alliance as the only plaintiff.

August 16, 2011

Waterkeepers file an appeal to the Court of Special Appeals from the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County’s decision in the Public Information Act dispute with MDA.

October 19, 2011

Food & Water Watch (FWW), through former Waterkeepers, launch Food & Water Justice. FWW becomes PR arm for Waterkeeper Alliance and law clinic.

March 1, 2012

Judge Nickerson declines to decide the case by summary judgment but issues a ruling pointing out weaknesses in the Waterkeepers’ case and noting his ability to award legal costs to the prevailing parties should the case continue to trial.

October 9- 24, 2012

U.S. District Court Trial for Waterkeeper Alliance, Inc. v. Alan and Kristin Hudson Farm and Perdue Farms, Inc. Judge rules final arguments will be made at a later date.

December 20, 2012

Judge Nickerson finds in favor of the Hudsons and Perdue Farms, ruling that the Waterkeepers "has failed to meet its burden," and further stating, "When citizen groups take up that mantle, however, they must do so responsibly and effectively. The Court finds that in this action, for whatever reason, Waterkeeper did not meet that obligation."

January 25, 2013

University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic files Public Information Act (PIA) request for "any and all" comprehensive nutrient management plans for animal feeding operations on behalf of four Waterkeeper-affiliated organizations.

March 13, 2013

Maryland House of Delegates passes a budget amendment to authorize the state Board of Public Works to approve spending up to $300,000 to assist the Hudsons for any unreimbursed legal costs related to the Waterkeeper lawsuit. House Speaker Mike Busch says move is "precedent-setting."

March 22, 2013

Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc., files a public records request with Attorney General Doug Gansler’s office to learn the role of Gansler’s Environmental Advisory Council and its relationship with the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic.

June 6, 2013

University of Maryland School of Law Dean Phoebe Haddon announces she will step down as dean at the end of the 2013-2014 academic year.

August 27, 2013

Judge Nickerson denies the motion to award attorneys’ fees to the Hudsons.

November 1, 2007

Waterkeepers host “Eastern Shore Poultry Summit” in Salisbury, MD. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Waterkeepers founder and President of the Waterkeepers’ Board of Directors, and AG Gansler are keynote speakers. AG Gansler says “we need to ramp up enforcement” of poultry by government and citizen groups through the Clean Water Act (CWA), and also states that it is “absurd” that farmer Nutrient Management Plans (NMPs) are not public documents, despite a Maryland statute that protects NMP confidentiality. The Director of the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic explains how citizens can go after the poultry industry using the CWA and that legal action is the best way to change industry behavior.

June 8, 2008

Members of the Waterkeepers are found trespassing on a poultry farm just outside Willards, MD.

January 12, 2009

Maryland’s regulations for AFOs become effective.

February 10, 2009

Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County rules that MDA must remove information identifying individual farmers before producing summaries of NMPs to Waterkeepers.

May 5, 2009

Maryland Office of Administrative Hearings issues proposed decision, rejecting Waterkeepers’ challenge to AFO General Permit.

October 1, 2009

Waterkeepers appeals MDE final decision on AFO General Permit to Circuit Court for Baltimore City. Because the Waterkeepers fail to move for a stay of the permit, MDE allows General Permit to become effective December 1, 2009.

December 17, 2009

Assateague Coastkeeper and Waterkeepers mail a Notice of Intent to sue Hudson Farm and Perdue Farms, Inc. for violations of the Clean Water Act and polluting the Pocomoke River.

January 26, 2010

MDE inspects Hudson Farm again and notes “no animal manure piles were observed outside.”

March 26, 2010

MDE announces conclusion of Investigation of Hudson Farm and issues a $4,000 administrative penalty for improper sludge storage. MDE notes corrective actions have already been taken. Maryland Office of Administrative Hearings later decides not to enforce the MDE penalty against the Hudsons.

April 8, 2010

Circuit Court for Baltimore City rejects Waterkeepers’ challenge to AFO General Permit. Waterkeepers then appeals to Maryland Court of Special Appeals.

July 14, 2011

Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County issues order clarifying its February 2009 decision. Court declares that MDA may release farmer names in certain circumstances, but they must remove information that would allow a reader to link a specific individual with a specific NMP.

September 12, 2011

Maryland Court of Special Appeals rejects the Waterkeepers’ challenge to the MDE’s AFO General Permit, rejecting Waterkeepers’ claim that the permit is not stringent enough to protect state waters, including the Chesapeake Bay. The appellate court finds the state’s general permit system is actually “broader” than the requirements of federal law.

November 14, 2011

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley sends a letter to Dean Phoebe Haddon expressing concerns about the "ongoing injustice being perpetrated by the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic’s continued pursuit of costly litigation of questionable merit against Alan and Kristen Hudson and their family-owned farm."

March 22, 2012

Maryland House of Delegate votes to support Maryland Senate proposal to appropriate $250,000 for the University of Maryland system to create an agricultural law clinic "assist farmers in the state with estates and trusts issues, compliance with environmental laws and other matters necessary to preserve family farms."

November 30, 2012

All sides present Final Arguments.

January 3, 2013

The Hudsons and Perdue file motions for attorneys’ fees and other legal expenses to be paid by the Waterkeeper Alliance to hold them accountable for their irresponsible lawsuit.

January 29, 2013

Waterkeeper Alliance announces it will not appeal the judge’s decision in the Hudson/Perdue lawsuit.

March 15, 2013

PIA request for nutrient management plans withdrawn after public outcry. Assateague Coastal Trust vows to refile request on its own. Law School discloses PIA filed at direction and advice of Attorney General’s Environmental Advisory Council, staffed by former Waterkeeper Erin Fitzsimmons.

May 2, 2013

After a five-year legal battle involving the Waterkeeper Alliance, Maryland Department of Agriculture and Maryland Farm Bureau, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals upholds a 2011 circuit court ruling that protected farmers’ personal identifying information from all records related to their nutrient management plans.The court also orders that costs be paid by the Waterkeeper groups that appealed.

June 26, 2013

Federal judge hears arguments about whether to order the Waterkeepers to reimburse the Hudsons and Perdue for legal fees incurred in fighting the lawsuit.

  Arkansas Farm Bureau  
  Colorado Farm Bureau  
  Delaware Farm Bureau  
  Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc.  
  The Howard County Farm Bureau  
  Indiana Farm Bureau  
  Lorain County Agriculture  
  Maryland Farm Bureau  
  Maryland Grain Producers  
  Maryland Association of Realtors  
  MidAtlantic Farm Credit  
  Mississippi Farm Bureau  
  Mountaire Farms  
  Nagel Hardware  
  National Chicken Council  
  Nebraska Farm Bureau  
  North Dakota Farm Bureau  
  Perdue Farms  
  Queenstown Bank of Maryland  
  South Carolina Farm Bureau  
  Southern States  
  U.S. Poultry & Egg Association  
  Wicomico Young Farmers & Ranchers  
  Willard Agri-Service  
  Worcester County Farm Bureau