Local News

Environmental Groups Concerned About Lack of Hog Farm Regulation

Posted October 14, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

A Duplin Co. Hog Farm

— Environmental groups have been pleading for better hog farm regulation, so legislators set up a system to inspect local farms, but in one county, the group doing the inspecting was actually set up to help farmers, not regulate them. That has some people in Duplin County worried that violations may be overlooked.

North Carolina's hog industry is a fixture in Duplin County. More than 700 local farms there turn out more swine than any other county in America.

But beginning November 1st, the rules will be different. A little known provision in the new state budget requires the local soil conservation service inspect every farm and report violations. Until now, the service's main focus has been to help farmers stay out of trouble, not to go looking for it.

Duplin County Commissioner Derl Walker says the soil conservation service has been inspecting farms for years. He's never heard of a case where the service has closed down a farm or sited any violations.

Walker, among others, believes the change that was pushed by state senator Charlie Albertson, takes the bite out of inspections. After all, in 98 other counties, state inspectors do that job, plus they have authority to punish any wrongdoing. The conservation service currently does not.

"If one of our folks were to go out to one of these operations and find a deficiency or whatever," Nona Tippett explains, "it's our responsibility to report whatever deficiency there might be."

Local officers like Tippett, Duplin Co. conservation manager, says the person assigned to the job will be as objective as any state worker. The big advantage is that he or she will know the area better because local officers have worked with the farmers every day. Walker says that is what makes him nervous.

"You've already got a friendship built up there and normally you're easier on your friends than on those who are not your friends."

WRAL has been told the most likely scenario is that someone from the outside will work in conjunction with soil conservation. It won't necessarily be a promotion for someone already in the State. Whoever takes on the job will be a state employee and will work with the local office. That person will not assume regulatory control.