• ‘Really terrible science experiment’ leads to weeks-long spill from NC hog-waste lagoon

    By Adam Wagner, Raleigh News & Observer September 6, 2022 The state inspector knew immediately there was trouble at White Oak Farms. When she visited the Wayne County farm on Feb. 3, the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality inspector saw a thick layer of hay laden with charcoal-colored foam in a ditch. That foam seemed to have oozed from under a black tarp covering a hog waste lagoon where manure was combined with unusual ingredients like liquified hog carcasses and discarded hot dogs and deli meat in a slurry to generate methane. The farm’s owners, including a former member of the National Pork Board, had not reported a spill. In a notice of violation dated Feb. 18, two weeks after the inspection, David May, a supervisor in DEQ’s Washington Regional Office, wrote that the inspector couldn’t tell how deep the foam was. But, May wrote, “the inspector stepped in that area sinking at least 4 inches on the edge.” White Oak Farms’ problems were just beginning. Four months later, on May 30, the black cover ruptured, sending an estimated three million gallons of the gelatinous gray foam across the farm and toward nearby Nahunta Swamp. By the time the spill ended weeks later, enough foam had spilled to fill more than four Olympic-sized swimming pools. At least 37,000 gallons had reached wetlands. An anaerobic digester on White Oak Farms in Fremont, N.C., tore on May 30, sending foam across the property. N.C. Department of Environmental Quality Environmental advocates learned about the spill by chance. They are outraged that it happened with minimal public notice, particularly considering that DEQ staff were monitoring the spill even as the department was finalizing a permit making it easier for anaerobic digesters to get environmental approval and easier for farmers to install them. Riverkeepers argue that DEQ’s regulation of White Oak Farms shows the department is not prepared for a potentially exponential increase of digesters on North Carolina’s hog farms. They learned about the White Oaks Farms spill on Aug. 3, more than two months after it began, when Sound Rivers’ Neuse Riverkeeper Samantha Krop flew over the facility. Krop saw that the black bubble that was supposed to be capturing gas appeared deflated, with water pooled across its surface. Krop also noticed that there was no vegetation around the lagoon and that it looked like dirt had been moved around southeast of the digester, where the property borders Nahunta Swamp. “It just didn’t look right,” Krop said. “It didn’t look like they were functioning properly.” An anaerobic digester on White Oak Farms in Fremont, N.C., split open in late May, sending foam oozing out for at least three weeks. Shown here on August 3, the farm mixed hog waste with deli meat, hot dogs and liquified pig carcasses to generate methane in the digester. The Feb. 3 inspection focused on the covered lagoon, a system called an anaerobic digester. Farmers pump manure and other unwanted material into the lagoon, where it decomposes, releasing methane and other gases. Digesters capture those gases, particularly methane, and use them to produce electricity or purified natural gas. In recent years, agricultural groups and environmentalists have debated the use of anaerobic digesters in North Carolina. These disagreements played out first against the backdrop of the 2021 Farm Act, which ordered the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality to write a general permit allowing most future digesters to move quickly through the environmental approval process. The N.C. Pork Council and other agricultural interests argue that covering waste lagoons reduces odor and prevents emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. They also offer farmers a revenue stream. In a written statement, Roy Lee Lindsey, the Pork Council’s CEO, said, “Digesters are a safe and proven technology that provide significant environmental benefits. While this situation was unfortunate, it is an isolated incident and should not discourage us from continuing to pursue renewable natural gas projects in North Carolina.” Environmental groups argue that digesters effectively lock in what they call a primitive waste management system in which hog manure and urine are washed into lagoons before being sprayed across nearby fields. The White Oak Farms spill demonstrates the risks digesters pose, said Blakely Hildebrand, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “It goes to show that these digester systems aren’t the environmental, climate silver bullet that the hog industry has painted them to be,” Hildebrand said. DEQ issued the general permit on June 30 — a week after inspectors concluded the White Oaks spill was continuing. As they finalized the permit, DEQ officials never revealed publicly that staff had been monitoring an active digester spill. That general permit would not have covered White Oak Farms’ digester. It only covers systems that process hog manure and urine, said Anna Gurney, a DEQ spokeswoman, not those that add other things into the slurry like White Oak Farms’ liquid pig carcasses, cast-off hot dogs and deli meat. Despite the digester debate, almost nobody knew a North Carolina hog operation was already operating by adding hogs and meat products to the manure under its black plastic balloon. “We have never heard of this before. We started asking around and nobody else in the environmental advocate world that we’re in has heard of this, either,” Jill Howell, the Pamlico-Tar riverkeeper, told The News & Observer. Howell continued, “It just all seems very strange and like one really terrible science experiment.” A N.C. Department of Environmental Quality inspector holds a handful of the foam that spilled May 30 from an anaerobic digester on White Oak Farms in Fremont, N.C. The farm was mixing hog manure, slurry made from dead hogs and cast-off deli meat in the digester to generate methane. ‘THIS IS THE ULTIMATE RECYCLING’ Deborah and Todd Ballance started hog farming in 1990, first as contract growers. When Coharie Hog Farm folded in 2009, the Ballances bought the pigs on their farm and went independent. “Since the farm was built by my husband’s grandfather our family has always strived to look to the future in order to do what is best for our family, our animals, our community, and our environment,” Deborah Ballance wrote in an email to The News & Observer. “We believe strongly in being sustainable and that is why we covered our lagoon and captured the methane for electricity.” The N.C. Pork Report, a N.C. Pork Council trade publication, profiled the Ballance family in 2017, shortly after then-U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue named Deborah Ballance to the National Pork Board. The story says Deborah and Todd met in first grade and farm land passed down by Todd’s grandfather. It also discusses the possibilities their efforts to turn manure into energy offer. Deborah Ballance told the Pork Report, “I think we basically reinvent ourselves every three years. You need to keep your ear to the ground and see what you need to be doing next or thinking about next, and that’s what we try to do.” The Ballance family had long been exploring how to generate revenue from hog waste, according to decades of permitting documents reviewed by The News & Observer. In 1997, White Oak Farms sought and received a permit for a two-lagoon system that it said would help lower nitrogen levels before the waste was sprayed over nearby fields. The farm planned to keep hog manure from reaching the lagoon and spread it on a field. Evaluations were underway, the permit said, of compacting solid waste and using it as animal feed. A 1997 application said, “White Oak Farms is very confident that the waste will become suitable animal feed. When it is converted to animal feed it will no longer be land applied.” In 2002, the farm said the manure capture system hadn’t worked as advertised and the equipment used to move liquid between lagoons had proven noisy and expensive to operate. At that point, the farm was permitted to have 5,500 sows. They wanted more hogs, but were limited by a moratorium on new or expanded hog operations the N.C. General Assembly made permanent in 2007 — a moratorium rooted in The News & Observer’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Boss Hog” series that showed how a lack of regulation around the industry was leading to environmental threats near some farms. Another 2007 bill offered a solution. The Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard supported renewable energy in North Carolina. It also required that 0.2% of the state’s energy come from swine waste by 2018. In 2013, White Oaks Farms asked DEQ: Could it add 60,000 hogs as long as it added an anaerobic digester, controlling odor, groundwater contamination and other environmental impacts? “Despite a moratorium in place in North Carolina on new hog farm construction, we found the ideal way to expand with finishing floors. We could build a methane digester and sell power to the power company,” the Ballance family wrote in a 2017 USDA loan application. Electricity generated by White Oak Farms could power about 3,000 homes on Duke Energy’s grid, according to the application. “We will take our hog waste and mortality and use it as fuel! This is the ultimate recycling,” the Ballances wrote. DEQ approved the permit in October 2013. In later permits, the regulatory agency would require the Ballances to expand in phases, starting with 15,000 hogs Hildebrand questions DEQ’s approval, pointing to a rule that any waste management system for a new or expanded hog farm must have a synthetic liner preventing contaminants from seeping into soil or groundwater. The permit approved by DEQ in 2013 and again in 2017 says the 8.75-million gallon anaerobic digester is “earthen-lined.” “It’s a very prescriptive standard,” Hildebrand said. “These performance standards aren’t vague.” The digester started operating in April 2019. Randy Wheeless, a Duke Energy spokesman, said the utility has bought power from White Oak Farms since 2019. Over that period, it has averaged enough electricity to power about 400 homes. Energy generated by hog waste, Wheeless said, is more expensive than energy from solar farms or natural gas. Wheeless said, “It’s a premium product because there’s just not that many facilities in a position to do that, and you still have a law in place in the state that says utilities shall buy or secure that type of power.” CHANGING SOURCES In 2020, DEQ approved an updated permit limiting what could go into the digester each day. The farm could add swine waste, up to 20,000 pounds of food waste like hot dogs or deli meat from Smithfield’s Kinston plant, and 210,000 pounds of dead pigs. With that approval, the farm started adding the dead pigs in July 2020. They later reported the pigs caused significantly higher methane production. Around the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic was impacting the farm’s operation. Despite having permission to add as many as 15,000 hogs, the farm instead found itself operating with 100 sows at most. That impacted the digester, too. In a year-end report, the Ballances wrote, “With swine production and processing decreasing industrywide, the facility has experienced a temporary change from a manure dominated digester feed source to primarily a food waste and mortality source.” In other words, the farm was putting more dead pigs and cast-off meat into the digester than hog waste, despite its permit explicitly stating that manure should be the main additive. The trend continued throughout 2021, with the number of hogs dwindling from 81 to 50. Still, the digester was operating well on mostly dead pigs and unwanted meat. In 2021’s year-end report, the Ballance family wrote, “From an energy production standpoint, the facility experienced its best period to date.” The farm submitted that report on Jan. 31, 2022. Three days later, the DEQ inspector found signs of the digester’s unreported spill. During a February inspection, a N.C. Department of Environmental Quality inspector found signs that a discharge of foam from an anaerobic digester on White Oak Farms had not been reported. Those signs included foam on top of the digester. N.C. Department of Environmental Quality THE SPILL The bubble burst in the middle of the night. White Oak Farms’ digester ruptured around 3 a.m. on May 30, according to a press release the farm sent to local newspapers. Later, the farm would write that “an unexpectedly severe digester foaming event” started with a fissure on the northern face of the black plastic covering. That’s also where the DEQ inspector identified the previous, unreported spill during her February inspection. A “thick foam” made of hog matter, liquid and gases gurgled out of the digester. According to the farm’s accounts, the foam ran across a field and reached a forest that contains wetlands. The farm maintains none of the foam reached Nahunta Swamp on its southern boundary. DEQ staff conducted several inspections over the ensuing weeks. On June 3, they saw foam on nearby surface water, possibly including Nahunta Swamp. That foam was cleaned up when staff returned on June 7. The spill was still active on June 23, according to a notice of violation DEQ issued in July. That notice said DEQ staff had detected “objectionable” odors and air quality and saw foam coming out of concrete structures on the digester’s western edge. The covering on a Wayne County lagoon broke open in late May, sending more than four swimming pools’ of foam across White Oak Farms in Fremont. The damaged anaerobic digester is shown here on August 3. Samantha Krop Sound Rivers What caused the spill is not immediately clear, and the Ballance family did not directly answer an emailed question about why the digester failed. But an N.C. State professor who studies anaerobic digesters said the dead hogs and cast-off meat could have played a role. Adding materials containing fat, oil and grease to anaerobic digesters can significantly heighten biogas production, Mahmoud Sharara wrote in an email to The News & Observer. But at the same time, long chain fatty acids within the so-called FOG material can cause a layer of foam and crust to develop on top of the slurry. Sharara, an agricultural and biological engineering professor, does not have first-hand knowledge of the White Oak Farms facility. It is possible, Sharara added, that the higher levels of gas could have been incompatible with existing infrastructure like the generator or motor that processed the gas. Pressure could have built up underneath the cover, he wrote, ultimately causing the rupture and allowing the foam to spill out. In response to The News & Observer, the Ballance family wrote, “As soon as our cover tore and leaked foam, we called the Department of Environmental Quality and began immediate cleanup. We have repaired our cover and complied with every requirement and suggestion made by DEQ. We will continue to consult with our engineer and scientific consultants to perfect our unique operation.” As of June 13, there were no hogs on White Oak Farms. LINGERING QUESTIONS After learning of the spill via Krop’s flight, riverkeepers dug into the permit record. They were alarmed that they hadn’t heard of the spill before and that the public notice requirements allowed White Oak Farms to report the spill without specific details. “There was no reference to what was in the wastewater foam, there was no acknowledgment that it was swine waste or dead hogs or food waste product,” Howell said. “It’s like a bare, bare bones public notice.” North Carolina laws require any facility that spills more than 15,000 gallons of animal waste into the state’s surface waters or wetlands to issue a press release in both the county where the spill happened and the county immediately downstream. That press release needs to say where and when the spill happened, how much waste was discharged, how long the spill went on and what the facility is doing to prevent further spills. Hildebrand, of the Southern Environmental Law Center, said White Oak Farms followed the law, but that the law or DEQ should require information about a spill to be spread futher than a public notice in a local newspaper’s classified section. “Especially in this day and age. I think the law could be better, the requirements could and should be better around public notification,” Hildebrand said, adding that DEQ is able to issue public notification itself or require operators that have spills to issue more widespread notification. Advocates also wonder whether DEQ can adequately regulate digesters, particularly considering Dominion Energy and Smithfield’s joint $500 million Align RNG initiative that is already forging ahead in Duplin and Sampson counties. With more digesters appearing likely to come online in the coming years, Howell and other advocates are concerned that DEQ field staff have not been specifically trained to inspect them. Gurney, the DEQ spokesman, said the Division of Water Resources “will conduct additional training for regional inspectors as needed as facilities are covered by the Digester General Permit.” The department’s field staff noted violations at White Oak Farms and issued notices of violation, including the one in February, but Howell argues that wasn’t enough to convince the farm to correct the problems. “DEQ’s enforcement was insufficient in all of this,” Howell said. On July 5, DEQ issued another notice of violation against White Oak Farms. The department said the Ballance family’s improper operation of the digester had resulted in the spill and impacts on nearby surface waters and wetlands. The state agency said the farm had failed to update its permit to account for operating without hogs for months and had on multiple occasions accepted more than 20,000 pounds of food waste on a given day, exceeding the amounts allowed in its permit. It noted that ammonia levels in wells between the digester and Nahunta Swamp were more than 12 times higher than the allowable concentration. In response to DEQ, the Ballance family said they stopped adding new material to the digester “at least three weeks” before the spill happened. The Ballance family also mentioned its plans to build another digester. Ideally, they wrote, the manure and meat products that had spilled from the old digester could be pumped into the new one to “seed the digestion process.” The new digester would have a synthetic liner to protect groundwater, as well as a berm on its southern side to contain any future spills. Read the article at News & Observer


    Continue reading
  • NC hog farm buyout failure leaves vulnerable communities at risk

    By: Makaelah Walters, Facing South July 21, 2022 Back in May, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) called on the Republican-controlled state legislature to include $18 million in the new state budget to fund the state’s Swine Floodplain Buyout Program. Created in 1999 in response to devastating floods from Hurricane Floyd that sent enormous amounts of hog farm pollution into communities and waterways, the program buys out owners of farms in low-lying areas prone to flooding. But the budget passed by the legislature — and signed into law by Cooper on July 1 — does not include funding for the program. "This is one of many examples of this industry wielding political power at the legislature," said Brooks Pearson, legislative counsel at the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) in Chapel Hill. The nonprofit law firm has long fought to protect communities from hog farm pollution. The hog industry has been a mighty political force in North Carolina for decades now. Since 2000, hog farmers and other meat industry interests have contributed more than $5.6 million to North Carolina state candidates, as Vox recently reported. In addition, several legislators themselves are farmers who champion the industry’s interests. The buyout program's funds have also been used to close hog farms' notoriously smelly "lagoons" — massive, open pits used store animal waste, including feces, urine, and blood. When lagoons get full, the contents are typically sprayed onto nearby fields, risking runoff into waterways while making life miserable for nearby residents. And while the lagoons pose a particular risk during hurricane season, they can overflow at any time due to lack of maintenance coupled with weak regulatory oversight. In December 2020, for example, a lagoon failure at DC Mills Farm in Eastern North Carolina’s Jones County spilled 1 million gallons of hog waste into a tributary of the Trent River. The farm raised pigs for Smithfield Foods, a Virginia-based food-processing company that's owned by the Chinese conglomerate WH Group. The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) had previously cited DC Mills Farm twice for lagoons being over capacity. "It's not necessarily a matter of if there will be another devastating hurricane in Eastern North Carolina," Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper Jill Howell told Facing South. "We see climate change manifesting in smaller ways. When three or four inches of rain is dumped all at once — and that's not an event here in Eastern North Carolina, it happens all the time — it causes serious localized flooding." For a time, environmental advocates were encouraged by farmers’ interest in the Swine Floodplain Buyout. In all, the state has spent nearly $19 million to halt operations on 43 swine farms. But in 2007 — the same year the legislature made its 1997 moratorium on swine farms permanent — it stopped funding the program. More than 100 farmers who applied were sent away empty-handed. "There are very few things that environmental advocates and operators at CAFOs agree on, but it feels like a swine buyout may be one of them," Howell said. Though the state's hog farms remained under scrutiny after a series of hurricanes and lagoon breaches, the buyout program did not resume until 2018, when Hurricane Florence sent animal waste from 46 lagoons flowing into communities and waterways. Twenty-three farmers applied for the last round of buyout funding, but there was only enough money to close three to five facilities, according to the state Soil and Water Conservation Division. The number of farmers volunteering for the program consistently outpaced the funding, leaving the communities most impacted by the industry vulnerable to disaster. "Every time this program gets funded, there are more applications than there is money to cover it," Pearson said. "The wall we typically hit is Steve Troxler." Troxler, North Carolina’s elected Republican agriculture commissioner, campaigned on making agriculture a $100 billion industry in the state. At the same time, his campaign is heavily supported by agricultural interests, with the North Carolina Pork Council and Smithfield Foods among his top donors, according to FollowTheMoney.org. Given current political realities, Pearson thinks any policy proposal that reduces the number of hogs in North Carolina likely isn’t going to fly. The entire legislature is up for election this year, but it will be elected using GOP-drawn maps favorable to the GOP. For Republicans to retake the supermajority and override Cooper's veto, they need to gain three seats in the state House and two in the Senate. Meanwhile, new pressure is building to keep hog waste lagoons in operation thanks to the state’s energy companies. In 2020, Smithfield Foods and Virginia-based Dominion Energy proposed the largest swine waste-to-energy project in North Carolina. The $500 million project would involve capping waste lagoons to collect methane gas, which would then be processed and transported via pipeline and sold to Piedmont Natural Gas. "It's the poster child for greenwashing," said Blakely Hildebrand, a senior attorney with SELC. "Industry is holding up biogas as this silver bullet to the climate crisis for the agricultural industry. And it is far far from that." As powerful industries team up to continue polluting, the resulting pain is disproportionately borne by residents of North Carolina’s environmental justice communities. A growing body of public health research shows that people who live closer to industrial animal operations get sick more often, stay sick longer, and die more often than people who live further away. And census data shows between a quarter to a third of residents of the state’s major pork-producing counties are Black and around a quarter of are Latinx. In Robeson County, home to both hog and poultry farms, nearly 42% of residents are Native American and 23% are Black. Despite the environmental health risks, the DEQ issued permits to four farms to begin biogas operations at the beginning of this year — a move that many advocates saw as environmental racism. "There’s lots of talk about how covering lagoons will be good for odors and for flooding related things," said Howell. "But what nobody talks about is how building out natural gas infrastructure does nothing to reduce the number of open air lagoons in Eastern North Carolina." Read the article on Facing South


    Continue reading
  • EPA launches civil rights inquiry into DEQ’s permitting of biogas systems on hog farms

    By: Lisa Sorg, NC Policy Watch January 14, 2022 The Environmental Protection Agency is opening an investigation into whether state regulators violated civil rights law when last spring, they granted permits to four industrialized hog farms that are installing anaerobic digesters to produce biogas for renewable energy. The investigation is in response to a complaint against the NC Department of Environmental Quality filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center, which is representing several community groups. SELC alleges that when DEQ granted the general permits to the Smithfield-owned farms, the agency failed to protect the surrounding communities from air and water pollution. A disproportionate share of the hundreds of families who live around the hog operations in Duplin and Sampson County are Black and Latino. Under a federal civil rights law, known as Title VI, entities that receive federal funds can’t from discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin —intentionally or unintentionally. “We are excited that the EPA decided to investigate this complaint.  As a ‘watch dog’ for those most negatively impacted by the hog industry, we consider the investigation of this complaint as a step in the right direction.  Nevertheless, we also understand that there is much more work to be done,” said Robert Moore, president of the Duplin County Chapter of the North Carolina NAACP, in a prepared statement. The SELC complaint met the administrative requirements for the EPA to proceed; next the agency will determine whether the complaint has merit. DEQ has 30 days to respond to the EPA. If the EPA finds the underlying issues of the complaint are valid, the case would initially go to mediation, which is legally required. Parts of the SELC complaint to the EPA are similar to one it filed to the state Administrative Office of the Courts. Earlier this week, Administrative Law Judge Donald van der Vaart ruled that DEQ legally permitted industrialized hog farms to install the digesters on their waste lagoons. Van der Vaart previously served as DEQ secretary under then-Gov. Pat McCrory, and was known for his anti-regulatory stances. The SELC’s state filing did not address civil rights laws. This is the EPA’s third civil rights inquiry into DEQ’s handling of industrialized hog farms since 2014. That year, under DEQ Secretary John Skvarla, the Waterkeeper Alliance, NC Environmental Justice Network and REACH (Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help) filed a complaint alleging that the state’s general permitting process for swine farms disproportionately burdens communities of color. The EPA ordered the parties into mediation, but in 2016 — under van der Vaart’s tenure — those talks broke down after DEQ brought members of the N.C. Pork Council and the Pork Producers to a confidential mediation meeting. In turn, Elizabeth Haddix and Mark Dorosin, who at the time worked for the UNC Center for Civil Rights, filed a retaliation complaint against the agency. In 2018, under Secretary Michael Regan, DEQ reached a settlement with the UNC Center for Civil Rights and its clients. The key points included air and surface water monitoring, greater public participation and transparency, and new complaint and violation point systems. Regan is now the EPA administrator. Read the article on NC Policy Watch


    Continue reading
  • Environmental lawsuit challenges NC biogas production from hog waste

    By: Arturo Pineda, Carolina Public PressOctober 22, 2021 A complaint about pollutants from hog farms filed last month with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency alleges that the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality’s issuing of biogas permits to four hog farms will have a disproportionate impact on communities of color in the surrounding area.  North Carolina environmental and civil rights advocacy groups argue that if the biogas operations are allowed to operate, pollutants from the operations will affect the communities of color surrounding the hog farms.  Biogas production is…


    Continue reading
  • Pollution from N.C.’s Commercial Poultry Farms Disproportionately Harms Communities of Color

    By: Aman Azhar, Inside Climate NewsOctober 13, 2021 The legislation aimed at regulating North Carolina’s huge and largely unregulated poultry industry seemed modest in scope, requiring commercial chicken farms to submit waste management plans to environmental regulators so the public would know where millions of tons of chicken “litter” ends up.  But as the legislative session in Raleigh came to a close in July, the bill had moved not an inch—and no one was surprised. “We’re unlikely to see any poultry related legislation passed in the short run,”…


    Continue reading
  • How the Meat Industry is Climate-Washing its Polluting Business Model

    By: Caroline Christen, DeSmog BlogJuly 18, 2021 In February last year, the head of a leading global meat industry body gave a “pep talk” to his colleagues at an Australian agriculture conference.  “It’s a recurring theme that somehow the livestock sector and eating meat is detrimental to the environment, that it is a serious negative in terms of the climate change discussions,” Hsin Huang, Secretary General of the International Meat Secretariat (IMS), told his audience. But the sector, he insisted, could be the “heroes in this discussion” if it…


    Continue reading
  • REPORT: “Bird’s-eye View – Impacts of NC Poultry Production on People and the Environment”

    Poultry rules the roost in North Carolina. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, poultry farming is now North Carolina’s #1 agricultural commodity, and with that rise to the top comes a rise in the problems it brings to communities. Clean Water for NC’s report, Bird’s-eye View: Impacts of NC Poultry Production on People and the Environment, gathers research on the social, environmental, and health impacts of NC’s poultry industry. In North Carolina, the number of poultry farms has dramatically increased since the 1997 state moratorium on new hog farms. Poultry operations often house…


    Continue reading
  • The North Carolina hog industry’s answer to pollution: a $500m pipeline project

    By: Michael Sainato, The Guardian December 11, 2020 Elsie Herring of Duplin county, North Carolina, lives in the house her late mother grew up in, but for the past several decades her home has been subjected to pollution from nearby industrial hog farms. “We have to deal with whether it’s safe to go outside. It’s a terrible thing to open the door and face that waste. It makes you want to throw up. It takes your breath away, it makes your eyes…


    Continue reading
  • Could defeat in nuisance lawsuits herald a reckoning for the NC hog industry?

    By: Lisa Sorg, NC Policy Watch November 24, 2020 In an extraordinary concurring opinion, a Reagan-appointed judge offers searing indictment of industrialized hog farming  Shortly after Smithfield Foods lost its third consecutive hog nuisance case in federal court, company CEO Ken Sullivan wrote a letter. In it, Sullivan reassured the company’s employees and contract growers that while Smithfield faced tens of millions of dollars in damages to neighbors of the offending farms, as well as untold legal fees, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals would bend the arc of justice back their way. “Since the early stages of these cases, we’ve believed North…


    Continue reading