The April 11 news article “House passes bill limiting liability of hog farms” outlined the debate surrounding N.C. House Bill 467, which would severely limit compensation for nuisance damages from agricultural practices.
Earlier we were involved in the research behind the N.C. State Attorney General/Smithfield Agreement and research funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture related to hog Confined Animal Feeding Operations.
We found serious impacts from swine waste pollution through emissions and discharge of ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, nitrates, pathogens, antibiotics, methane and odor, which must be reduced before increasing hog production in North Carolina. These emissions to the atmosphere are seldom only local. Some of the emissions return to the earth in areas close to the hog sites, while others travel considerable distances.
Since 1997, we have a moratorium on new permits for hog waste lagoons, but virtually all the farms responsible for raising 10 million hogs in North Carolina are grandfathered and so far have only been forced to meet only the earlier standards. Allowing these farms to expand without fixing the pollution they create will exacerbate their impacts on the health and well-being of the residents of eastern North Carolina. The problem is exacerbated because control over local production has been acquired by foreign producers, such as the purchase of Smithfield Foods by a company in China.
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North Carolinians should embrace opportunities to succeed with new ideas but not at a cost to the quality of life, health or environmental conditions in our state.
Sustainable pork production was defined two decades ago by the moratorium legislation. The best technology to produce pork was identified under the Smithfield Agreement in 2000. If we lower the human health and environmental standards, we will perpetuate the adverse impacts to human health and the environment recognized over a decade ago.
Fortunately, there are methods and technologies that could substantially reduce impacts associated with the hog industry.
Environmentally Superior Technologies were identified 10 years ago through extensive scientific studies addressing hog farm pollution. At the time of the Smithfield Agreement, at least one EST, the Terra Blue Super Soils system, was economically feasible for use in newly-built hog operations. It also met very high environmental standards and may properly be considered sustainable for hog production.
The N.C. General Assembly must integrate the protection of North Carolinians into any plans for expansion of the hog industry.
Viney P. Aneja
Professor, N.C. State
William H. Schlesinger
Dean Emeritus, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University
The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response to the isssue.