Local News

Debate continues over hog farms' impact on N.C. rivers

Posted March 19, 2007
Updated April 30, 2008

— North Carolina's $7 billion pork industry has to balance business against the environmental threat of large-scale hog farms. A non-profit group believes the scales are tipping toward disaster, and it is determined to prove the current waste-disposal system isn’t working.

Larry Baldwin, who keeps an eye on the lower Neuse River for the Neuse River Foundation, searches by air for farmers spraying hog waste near wetlands and drainage ditches. During half of his flights, he said, he sees potential violations that he said are slowly killing rivers and streams.

“Right now, we’re finding that farmers are spraying in areas where they shouldn’t be,” Baldwin said.

Photos snapped within the last few weeks show drainage flowing through fields into neighboring tributaries. Environmental watchdogs like Baldwin take pictures to refute what they see as public complacency about the threat of large-scale hog faming. The Neuse River Foundation wants the aerial documentation to push the public and political debate.

The General Assembly is considering a bill to extend the moratorium on new hog lagoons that is set to expire in August. The Neuse River Foundation opposes the moratorium, however, saying it's not working.

Officials with the foundation said lawmakers need to force the pork industry to institute cleaner forms of waste disposal.

Tommy Stevens of the North Carolina Pork Council didn’t defend overspraying, but his group opposes efforts to mandate a phase-out of the current hog waste disposal methods.

“There is simply not a viable technology for a grower to switch to, and very often instances like that have unintended consequences, such as putting hog producers out of business,” Stevens said.

However, Baldwin said the foundation will keep flying and sounding the alarm about hog farms down east.

“We're not playing about this,” Baldwin said. “This is not something we’re doing as a hobby. We’re serious about this.”

A spokesperson for the state Department of Agriculture & Consumer Affairs said inspectors will respond to public complaints about hog farms. Violations and fines are pending against one of the farms the foundation cited.


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  • 2little2late Mar 20, 2007

    True NCSU regarding good vs bad apples..and yes,that would be the downside of improvement..any cost would be passed down to the consumer...but stop..we don't want corporations to lose any profit. Nice thing is that supply and demand could turn against pork at that point and consumers could go to another food source...and then the corporations would switch gears but the local farmers of pork would S.O.L..I hear Alpaca meat is a good bet

  • 2little2late Mar 20, 2007

    Follow-up: Sar is right. Do not blame this on small, local "farmers". The blame is on the large hog processing facilities. We aren't protecting Mom and Pop down on the farm. The people profiting from lax oversight and a reluctant politicians are the some of the biggest corporations out there...with the deep pockets to resist change and fight additional constraints...if their profit slips, their stock slips, and their jobs are threatened. We can't have someone lose their job just because people in North Carolina can't drink from/swim in/fish in and eat fish from the Neuse River.

  • NCSU2004 Mar 20, 2007

    Most of you people just don't have a clue about what really happens on hog farms. Of course there are some bad apples in the bunch who don't do things the right way, but the majority of the NC hog farmers are trying to change their practices and do care about the environment. It is extremely costly however, so unless you're wanting to pay $10 a pound for your pork chops or your bacon then nothing can be done immediately... it takes time.

    Rand321 - there are farms in NC who are currently testing some of these ideas

  • 2little2late Mar 20, 2007

    Nice try Sar. How many acres of non-permeable surfaces (asphalt and concrete)are there exactly in eastern North Carolina?
    Yes. Pigs are clean. Their excrement howver isn't when it's disposed in an improper/irresponsible manner. Take a trip to Boston and check the toxicity reports from the Charles River to get a better idea of what can happen to an environment invaded by chemical(yes, hog waste is a chemical) waste from industrial facilities(hog farming is a 7 Billion dollar "industry"), allowed to continue because they didn't want industry to suffer from silly constraints like the environment. They local government did nothing until the river esssentially died. You can honestly get a rash from swimming there still....after they "cleaned it up"

  • S82R Mar 20, 2007

    On the debate on the source of pollution issue- yeah, some of it comes from (hog) farms, but it is also undeniable that some of it also comes from municipal sewer/water system "spills" and from the large amounts of runoff from non-porous (concrete, asphalt) surfaces.

    Don't blame it all on the farmers.

    And pigs are actually relatively clean animals by the way.

  • Windmill Tilter Mar 20, 2007

    It is a beautiful weekend coming up. Wish my rights to go to the Neuse and enjoy clean water and bountiful healthy fish were not being tread on by irresponsible hog farmers, regulators and legislators. The pollution has got to stop. Remember a few years ago, that for many years these same types of politicians were studying the effects of cigarettes on people.

    I truly don't know how they can face their children in the morning knowing the legacy they are leaving for them.

  • 2little2late Mar 20, 2007

    The hog waste IS polluting the water.Period.We all know that whether we want to admit it or not.The reason the "legislators"(translation: politicians)are having a "debate"(translation:Cover-my-butt-stall tactic)is because of the huge amounts of money(translation:power and influence-peddling)donated(translation:paying politicians)to the political parties.The legislators from the areas where the hog farms are don't dare do anything to hurt that industry out of concern for their local economy(where else are hog farners going to work? Check the education statistics for ideas.)Just where would the political contributions/power/influence come from if they couldn't guarantee to hold out on any changes to the industry until it's too late,which is about the time their term will be over.Congrats morons!Catch-phrase here: It's the environment stupid! We sorta depend on it.Feel free to use the catfch phrase often when surrounded by environmental "legislators"
    Anybody for a glass of water?

  • rand321 Mar 19, 2007

    It is a shame when there are so many other uses for the hog wastes that utilize more environmentally and safer means. In travels to developing and rapidly developing nations, I have seen them harvest the methane from the composting waste to be used to fire heaters for further processing or to generate electricity.

    I have then seem them compost the remaining waste with earthworms to render safter for fertilizing and then use the firms to feed stocked fish or chickens.

    If they can do this in central american on industrial scales, why can our technoligically advance society figure it out.

  • Gnathostomata Mar 19, 2007

    The smell alone should tell you something. Probably why God said do not eat pigs. It isn't just the chance of getting intestinal parasites, it's the disgusting waste product that pollutes rivers and ultimately drinking supplies. Keep distroying it, uh-huh, and Alaskan ice bergs are going to be in demand.