Hog Farmers in NC Create Loophole to Skirt Environmental Law
In April, we highlighted the environmental and public health dangers associated with North Carolina’s hog industry, one of the biggest industries in the state. North Carolina’s 10 million hogs produce 40 million gallons of manure each day — that’s more than the number of people in the state. In Duplin County alone, 2.2 million hogs produce twice as much untreated manure as the sewage from the New York City metro area. Efforts to implement a plan to ensure that factory hog farms are incorporating responsible practices of manure disposal continue to be unsuccessful. It’s a tug-of-war between those who want to pull North Carolina away from harmful factory farm methods of manure management and those who want to keep dragging the state through lots and lots of manure.
The State General Assembly initially tried to get North Carolina moving in the right direction — away from the massive hog farms and their awful manure lagoons — back in 1997 by putting a moratorium on new hog farms. After ten years of study and $17 million in developing better farming practices, the Assembly also passed new environmental performance standards for new hog farms in 2007. Compliance to these environmental regulations was completely voluntary for operations that already existed. Unfortunately, it was from these very farms that many of the environmental problems derived.
In the last few years, Rep. Pricey Harrison has introduced bills to make all hog operations compliant with these new air and water quality standards by 2016.This would be the logical next step to help North Carolina get rid of all of its lagoons. But, that’s not what’s happening.
Now, the big hog industry is trying to enact a new shortcut in the form of legislation that was recently introduced into the State Assembly: Senate Bill 501. The bill essentially creates a loophole for industry, allowing any existing hog farms with manure lagoons to make renovations and expansions without having to comply to the new environmental standards. In other words, they can keep their manure pits and add more hogs.
Just when North Carolina was well positioned to move toward more responsible methods of manure management, this piece of legislation rears its ugly head and gives industrial farms another chance to hang on to them. The scary part it that the legislation is moving pretty quickly through the State Assembly. We hope that North Carolinians step in and support Harrison’s bill: the one that will help clean up the manure for good.
Factory farms leave an indelible mark on the communities around them, creating health and environmental problems by incorporating an industrial system that cannot possibly sustain itself into the future. North Carolina’s hog farms are contributing to massive air and water pollution. It’s about time we forced industry to make a change. Ask North Carolina state legislators to address the worst practices in the state’s hog industry.