Deborah M. Johnson: Hog farmers embrace transparency

June 6, 2014 

In the May 24 Point of View “ Wrongly shrouding swine in secrecy,” the state’s hog farmers were once again unfairly maligned, this time by two Duke University law professors who claim that these farmers are “trying to hide from public scrutiny.” Longtime hog farming detractors Ryke Longest and Michelle Nowlin wrongly suggested that our industry has thrown support behind N.C. Senate Bill 762, which seeks to prevent the public from viewing aerial photos taken over farmers’ private property.

The N.C. Pork Council, a trade association representing hog farmers, does not support SB 762 and is doing nothing to encourage its passage. Our pork council public policy committee, made up of farmers and other industry leaders well-versed in legislative policymaking, voted unanimously to offer no support to the proposed concept before the bill was introduced. In fact, the locations of the state’s permitted hog farms have long been available to the public, even accessible online, and we have not sought to limit those records being public in the current format.

We are proud of the work we do, and although we believe our farmers have a right to protect their private property and the health of their animals on their property, it does not mean we are trying to hide anything from the public, our consumers.

It is critically important that North Carolinians know that our hog farmers are highly regulated by both state and federal oversight. Just as important, they also have an unquestioned personal obligation to seek continuous improvement in everything they do.

We know we are expected to deliver safe food, protect the environment and provide sound care of our animals. Almost always we succeed; on occasion, we fall short.

Given the challenges they face in seeking the highest standards of performance in a demanding profession, hog farmers expect criticism. It comes with the territory. But the criticism from both the public and the media ought to be accurate and fair. Too often it isn’t.

Deborah M. Johnson

Chief executive officer, N.C. Pork Council

Raleigh

The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response to the Point of View.

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