Despite Moratorium, More Hog Farms Built in North Carolina in Past 10 Years

NORTH CAROLINA - Despite a moratorium on new hog farms in North Carolina, enough farms have been added, expanded or reactivated under exemptions to add 500,000 swine in the state in the past 10 years.
calendar icon 23 March 2007
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Under those exemptions to the 1997 law that established the moratorium, 73 new hog farms have been built, 25 have been expanded and four were reactivated, state water regulators told The News & Observer of Raleigh. The majority of these exceptions use waste pits and spray fields to dispose of hog manure - both of which the state wants to eliminate because of concerns that they pollute water.

"I'm very surprised," said Molly Diggins, director of the Sierra Club in North Carolina. "People assumed that the total number of hogs has been kept steady and that there are not new lagoons and spray fields being built. People knew those exemptions would allow some slippage, but not at that level. The moratorium isn't working, and it should be replaced with a permanent ban on new lagoons and sprayfields."

A spokeswoman for the state Division of Water Quality, which issues hog farm permits, said the farms comply with the way legislators wrote the moratorium, which expires in September without further legislation.

"The industry hasn't been growing in spite of the moratorium," spokeswoman Susan Massengale said. "It's been growing in concert with what was said in that moratorium."

The new farms could mean more business for Smithfield Foods, which is asking the state for permission to process 1 million more pigs annually at its slaughterhouse in Tar Heel in Bladen County. Smithfield's application includes a request to buy hogs from new farms that don't use the more innovative waste disposal methods.


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