Hog farmers, neighbors again at odds over waste

Posted July 25, 2013

— More than a decade after state regulators tried to improve the operation of hog waste lagoons at pork production farms across eastern North Carolina, farmers and their neighbors are locked in a new battle over the foul odor and pollution from the lagoons.

Hundreds of complaints were filed about three weeks ago, giving notice of potential lawsuits over the negative impact of living near a hog waste lagoon on property values and quality of life.

"You couldn't stay out here because it stunk so bad you couldn't breathe," Elsie Herring said Thursday.

Herring's family has lived in Duplin County for more than a century. Over the past 20 years or so, she said, hog waste from neighboring farms has literally rained down on her property as farmers sprayed waste on adjacent fields.

"We're prisoners. We don't open our doors or our windows," she said.

About 30 miles away, farmer Elwood Garner said he feels the threat of what he considers frivolous lawsuits.

"Nobody had come to me and said anything about odor or anything else," said Garner, who raises more than 5,200 hogs for Smithfield Foods.

He said his hog houses and 100 acres of waste spray-fields follow state regulations.

Hog farm generic, hog, pig, pork Little change in hog waste disposal in years

After extensive hog farm and lagoon flooding during Hurricane Floyd in 1999, the state signed an agreement with the pork industry with the goal of finding better ways to dispose of waste. Farmers say those alternatives proved too inefficient, so little has changed in recent years.

"If people in this country want cheap food and want quality food and safe food, (hog waste) is just something we have to live with," Garner said.

Hog farmers in Duplin, Sampson, Bladen, Pender and Greene counties connected to Smithfield Foods on Wednesday rejected mediation with their neighbors and vowed to fight any lawsuits.

"This is my livelihood. This is the way I feed my family," Garner said.

"What about our livelihood when you can't breathe clean air?" Herring asked.

The North Carolina Pork Council contends outside law firms have recruited people to complain about hog farms, but Herring said she's complained for years about hog waste and didn't need recruiting.

"I'm still hopeful things will change," she said.


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  • wasone Jul 26, 2013

    All the hog farmers smell is the money!

  • wasone Jul 26, 2013

    ZEN0NX6, Has your head been in the sand, a company in china just bought Smithfield foods.

  • ripetomatoes Jul 26, 2013

    Never had a complaint about my lagoon.


  • perseusomega9 Jul 26, 2013

    easy fix. who was there first? they win.-FromClayton

    Not so easy, who has the weight of industrial agribusiness lobbies and lawyers behind them? Not the homeowner.

  • baldchip Jul 26, 2013

    It seems to me that the brain trusts at State and ECU could figure something out to reduce the impact of these lagoons.
    I'm not supporting or denying, but my thought is that something could and should be done. The burning for electricity sounds expensive but very positive.

    We are one hurricane away this year(with the excessive rain) from an environmental disaster on the order of Floyd in 1999.
    Streams & rivers are full-some over full. 1999 all over again. There is no where for excess water to go but up!!

    Like every one else, I love my bacon. It's expensive now-and seldom eaten in my home. Pork chops are a great alternative to steak and are wonderful grilled outside with corn and a salad!
    Much of the fat runs into the fire that way.

    Farmers are citizens as well. They want peace and tranquility in their communities. 99+% are within the law. Remember, they smell this stuff too.

    Universities, let's find a way!

  • perseusomega9 Jul 26, 2013

    Also, to the commentators who are preaching about how we should get rid of corporate industries and switch to organic food... good luck keeping those prices down!-sarahndipity

    Yeah it'd be a real shame if those fast food dollar menus went away.

  • FromClayton Jul 26, 2013

    easy fix. who was there first? they win.

  • perseusomega9 Jul 26, 2013

    Wonder why that wine tastes so good?-ripetomatoes

    That horribly sweet muscadine juice they try to pass off as wine?

  • perseusomega9 Jul 26, 2013

    The are highly educated. tell me do you know how many quarts of a fertilizer mixes with x amount of gallons of water to cover x amount of acres. Do you know the difference between 10-10-10 mix, potash, nitrogen, sulfate, etc. Can you perform these calculations to properly maintain acres of crop land and each night when you lay down pray that your crops grow. Do you, can you. --What Challenge

    I didn't know rudimentary algebra counted for highly educated these days, then again with all the education cuts it may just be the new standard. There are plenty of other examples though, such as being able to identify animal/plant disease and pest identification, plus having to be highly versatile from crop/animal knowledge to repairing heavy equipment.

  • sarahndipity Jul 26, 2013

    I hope everyone realizes how important the pork industry is to North Carolina. In 2006, the pork industry contributed $6.96 billion in sales, had $2.11 billion in value added (income), and provided 46,241 full time jobs. And it has only grown since then.

    NC also consistently ranks as the number one pork producer in the nation.

    It's as much a part of our state as the tech companies in the cities. The smell is awful, yes (and I've done research on a hog farm so I do know), but sometimes you have to weigh the advantages v. the disadvantages.

    Also, to the commentators who are preaching about how we should get rid of corporate industries and switch to organic food... good luck keeping those prices down!