Shortly after my colleague and I detailed problems with the ag-gag provisions in Senate Bill 762 (“ Wrongly shrouding swine in secrecy,” May 24 Point of View), the N.C. Pork Council’s Deborah Johnson said the council did not support that bill (“ Hog farmers embrace transparency,” June 7 letter).
I was happy to read her letter and assumed that ag-gag was dead this session. I was wrong.
Just two weeks after the pork council’s letter ran, the N.C. Senate ran a new bill that was even worse, a Senate substitute for House Bill 366. Section 1 of the Senate’s version of HB 366 cloaks all complaint investigation records on factory farms, including GPS coordinates, photos, notes and even government emails.
This General Assembly session has stuffed the Public Records Act with special-interest loopholes from fracking fluids to swine odor complaints. Since swine odors are often strongest before N.C. DENR’s offices are open for business, odors usually dissipate before DENR inspectors can make an inspection. Under Section 1 of HB 366, none of these complaints can be seen by anyone without a court order.
On July 3, members of the House of Representatives wisely rejected the Senate’s rewrite of HB 366. The conference committee should remove Section 1 of HB 366. It stinks.