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Protesting farmers say hog farm owes them thousands

Duplin County farmers are protesting at Coharie Farms, which is run by a former U.S. Sen. Lauch Faircloth's daughter. Farmers say Coharie Farms is selling corn for which it owes them thousands of dollars.

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BLADENBORO, N.C. — Farmers from several counties are protesting at a farm run by a former U.S. senator's daughter, saying she is selling corn for which she owes them thousands.

Farmers said that Coharie Farms commonly allows them to store corn in its silos until the price is right for them to sell. However, this year, farmers said that Coharie Farms has started selling the corn to another pork producer before paying them.

In protest, Derrick Russ parked an 18-wheeler to block the loading area of corn silos at the Coharie Farms facility in Bladenboro.

"They can't haul it out as long as my truck is in that pit," he said. "But it's a matter of time before they have my truck towed."

Russ said Coharie Farm owes him $120,000.

"It's hard enough for a young farmer to get his foot in the door," he said. "I finally got my foot in the door, and now I got a good crop, and now it's gone."

Farmers said the silo operators locked up and left when they heard about the protest.

Farmers said Coharie Farms hasn't explained why they aren't getting paid. Ann Faircloth, who runs the Clinton, N.C.,-based farm once owned by her father, former U.S. Sen. Lauch Faircloth, 81, declined to comment to WRAL News.

Coharie Farms issued a written statement saying the company has lost a tremendous amount of money since September 2007. The statement cited the recession, fears about H1N1 when it was called the swine flu, and high feed prices driven by demand for ethanol.

"We fully empathize with the farmers that supply our farm with corn, many since we began as a small feed mill in 1972," read the statement. "They are our friends and neighbors, and we value the business arrangements that we have with them. We ask for their patience as we work through this difficult time."

Farmers said that they haven't had any past problems with Coharie Farms.

"I had that much confidence in Coharie Farms," said Oran Young, who has been selling corn to the business for years.

William Williamson, though, said he got a bad feeling when he dropped a load of corn off at Coharie Farms last week.

"I feel like they knew then that they couldn't pay us or weren't going to pay us," Williamson.

Farmers said that patience can only go so far when the nonpayment is hurting their businesses.

"We're going to have to sell out or got out of business or go bankrupt or something, because we can't our bills," farmer Jason Rogers said.

"I got youngens and bills to pay, and I ain't got the money to pay them," Russ said. "Where does it leave me? Leaves me out in the dark."

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Bryan Mims, Reporter
Robert Meikle, Photographer
Anne Johnson, Web Editor

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