Leaving lagoons

NORTH CAROLINA - Farmers need incentives for hog waste transition.
calendar icon 8 May 2006
clock icon 3 minute read
Time was when open-air hog waste lagoons were the preferred way to treat millions of gallons of hog feces and urine produced on North Carolina farms. But that was before 10 million hogs populated the Eastern third of the state, fouling the air with eye-watering odors, polluting ground water and forcing nearby residents indoors during bad air days.

That's why then-Attorney General Mike Easley arranged a multimillion-dollar settlement in 2000 with the major hog producing companies to explore better technology. Among other things, making a transition away from open-air cesspools of hog waste would minimize the opportunity for huge spills such as the rupture of a lagoon at Oceanview Farms in 1995 that poured millions of gallons of waste into eastern waterways. Mr. Easley supervised an agreement that committed Smithfield Foods to spend $15 million seeking better hog waste alternatives.

Now, after a long research period while scientists at N.C. State University identified promising technologies to treating animal farm wastes, the state must find a way to jump-start participation in the process. Why? Because waste disposal technology is expensive, and none of the systems identified at N.C. State are economically viable at the moment, scientists there say. That will come in time, they add.

To hasten the process along, two prominent groups have proposed an incentives-based Early Adoption Program. The conservation group Environmental Defense and an association of hog producers called Frontline Farmers -- both of them partners in the research agreement -- have proposed that the state spend $10 million in the upcoming year to install the new technologies on from 50 to 100 farms. That task may require as much as $20 million, but the groups are seeking $10 million to get things started.

Source: Charlotte Observer
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