Local News

Hunt Proposes Moratorium on Hog Farms to Study...

Posted April 8, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— Gov. Jim Hunt today asked lawmakers for a two-year moratorium on new construction of hog farms while zoning is studied and environmental problems are analyzed.

But as hundreds of hog farmers and their supporters protested outside his news conference, Hunt said he has not worked out details of the moratorium with legislators and does not yet have a sponsor for the bill. The deadline for drafting bills without an appropriation is Thursday.

Hunt also indicated he might support giving counties zoning authority if that zoning is based on scientific evidence. But he refused to say directly that he would support zoning authority for counties, which is the centerpiece of new hog regulations proposed by Rep. Richard Morgan, R-Moore.

``I have said what I have said,'' Hunt responded, when asked for a simple ``yes'' or ``no'' on his support for county zoning authority over intensive hog farms. ``I support county zoning if we do it right.''

Morgan's bill contains a one-year moratorium on intensive hog farms statewide.

Hunt said he doubted a moratorium would have significant financial impacts.

``I am not suggesting we do anything to cut back on hog farms that are operating now,'' Hunt said. ``People in the pork industry tell me there are not many out there planning to expand. They say we practically have a moratorium right now.''

Whitley Stephensen, president of the North Carolina Pork Council, said Hunt has chosen to ignore hog farmers.

``We believe that the leadership of this state has failed us,'' Stephensen said.

``We have tried to work within the system,'' he said. ``We've been told that all of this legislation won't hurt us. We've been told these things are for our own good and the good of the environment. We've been told to just be patient.''

``That long of a moratorium will break a lot of people,'' said Walter Cherry, executive director of the North Carolina Pork Producers Association. ``It's going to cause some real financial problems.''

Hunt, questioned by a hog industry supporter at his news conference, said the industry could come out of a moratorium stronger.

``If we take the time here, ... the future of this industry all over the country is going to be brighter,'' Hunt said.

The hog industry's problems became apparent in 1995 after a series of major hog waste lagoon spills sent millions of gallons of pig feces and urine into streams and rivers.

Hog industry spokesmen have said the focus on environmental problems of hog farming takes the spotlight away from other pollution sources that have fouled the Neuse River and other waterways in eastern North Carolina.

By DENNIS PATTERSON,Associated Press Writer Copyright ©1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or distributed.