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World's Largest Hog Producer Agrees to Phase Out Lagoons

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RALEIGH — North Carolina's hog industry may be on the verge of change. The open-air hog lagoon could become a thing of the past.

Under an agreement with theN.C. Attorney General's Office,Smithfield Foodsagreed to payN.C. State University$15 million to create new technology to replace hog lagoons.

NCSU has two years to develop the technology, and within five years, Smithfield plans to use the system -- whatever it might be -- on all of its company-owned farms.

The agreementwas signed Tuesday at a Raleigh press conference, attended by Attorney General Mike Easley, representatives from Smithfield Foods and state officials.

"The lagoon system that is employed today is fully legal and fully permitted by the state," said Smithfield Foods Vice President Richard Poulson. "Working together, we can develop and implement a better system."

"This is a day I never thought I'd see happen," saidN.C. Agriculture Commissioner Jim Grahamsaid at the news conference.

Hurricane Floyd'srains caused scores of hog lagoons to overflow last year, creating an environmental disaster in the eastern part of the state. The agreement aims to prevent those catastrophes in the future.

"I think that when the largest pork producer in the world says that this can be done, and it can be done within five years, that's certainly cause to get your hopes up a little bit that maybe we're finally going to make some progress in dealing with those problems," said theN.C. Sierra Club'sMolly Diggins.

NCSU already has a half-dozen technologies ready to be tested.

Smithfield Farms is the largest hog producer in the world, responsible for 70 percent of North Carolina's hog population.


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