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First Casualties in Hog Production Cutback

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ROSE HILL — Fifteen years of hard work are about to come to an abrupt end for Hardy Moye.

Until now, he's devoted seven days a week to raising hogs for Murphy Family Farms, the largest pork producer in North Carolina.

"Yesterday, we were informed by Murphy Family Farms that our contract would not be renewed," Moye said.

Moye and ten to 14 other producers just laid off may be the first casualties of a nationwide hog crisis.

Hogs are the cheapest they've been in 30 years. In fact, pork producers are losing up to $70 for every hog they sell.

Industry analysts say there's now a glut of hogs because so many companies rushed to expand before moratoriums took effect. New regulations in North Carolina and other states limit the number of animals the companies can slaughter.

"Because of the limit on kills, it has created a glut in hogs because hogs can't go to market," Moye said. "My opinion is that the glut is due to over-expansion of the hog industry."

Moye believes the industry is cancelling contracts so the state will ease up on slaughtering limits and that's unfair.

"In 1987, I was the top pig producer for Murphy Farms, so it's not like it's somebody who sits down at the store and drinks beer and doesn't know what he's doing," Moye said. "This is our livelihood."

Murphy Family Farms owns more than 275,000 sows and 125 sow farms and employs 500 contract farmers in North Carolina, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas and Illinois.

Hogs were the state's number one agricultural commodity in 1997, but they will not be this year because of plummeting prices. The drop in prices could wipe farmers, especially independent ones, out of business.

There were 6,000 hog farms in North Carolina in 1996. But just a year later, there were only 5,800. During that same time period, the number of hogs in North Carolina increased by half a million.