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NC Hog Legislation Aproved

by 5m Editor
9 July 2008, at 1:10pm

NORTH CAROLINA - North Carolina hog farmers could rebuild after a natural disaster or change operations without having to follow decade-old distance requirements from homes or schools in legislation approved Tuesday by a Senate committee, reports The Charlotte Observer.

The bill also provides a similar exception for farmers, many associated with Smithfield Foods Inc., who are making plans to expand living areas for their pregnant sows.

Swine houses built before the mid-1990s are exempt from buffer requirements, approved in landmark hog legislation in 1996 after some high-profile animal waste spills. Now the hog industry wants to remain exempt if new construction is performed in narrow circumstances.

But environmentalists said the bill, which is slated for Senate floor debate Wednesday, is a step backward for the health and safety for those who live close to hog operations or go to church or school nearby.

"This represents the first significant erosion of existing protections," Molly Diggins, state chapter president of The Sierra Club, told the panel, before the Senate Environmental Committee agreed to the changes.

The state's hog industry creates 48,000 jobs, according to the North Carolina Pork Council, mostly in eastern North Carolina. North Carolina is the nation's second-largest hog producer, behind Iowa.

"I would never do anything that I thought would degrade our community," said Albertson, D-Duplin, who helped pass 1996 legislation restricting hog lagoons. "This industry is so important to our people that this is prudent, it's reasonable."

The current law requires swine houses built before July 1995 to stay at least 2,500 feet from schools, 1,500 feet from any residence and 500 feet from any property boundary.

The setback exception also would apply when the farmer wants to adapt the swine house to a different operation, such as from raising sows to keeping older pigs before they are taken to market.

Other swine houses need more room for pregnant sows, which historically have been kept in stalls or crates, which animal rights activists have criticized as inhumane.

Virginia-based Smithfield said last year it would phase out the crates in favor of larger pens at its company-owned hog operations.

View The Charlotte Observer story by clicking here.

5m Editor