RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - North Carolina lawmakers are taking steps to protect the world's largest pork producer from lawsuits accusing its subsidiaries of creating unbearable odor and animal waste.

The 2014 lawsuits by about 500 rural neighbors of massive hog farms allege that clouds of flies and intense odors remain a problem nearly a quarter-century since industrial-scale hog farming took off.

With the cases advancing toward a possible trial as early as this summer, legislators are working to sharply limit penalties that courts could impose.

Rep. Jimmy Dixon is sponsoring the legislation. He says companies need protection from the lawsuits because they could financially hurt the contract farmers who raise the hogs.

Don Webb says people like him who can't afford lawyers would lose a way to demand changes by hog farms.