• 72°

Column: Debate on hog-farm moratorium will get messier

By Scott Mooneyham

Capitol Press Association

RALEIGH — When it comes to North Carolina’s moratorium on industrial-style hog farms, this year could bear a striking resemblance to “Alice in Wonderland.”

Down is up. Up is down. Hog farmers want it. Environmentalist doan’t.

The General Assembly first approved the moratorium, which applies to new farms with more than 250 hogs, in 1997. The moratorium came in response to a series of hog waste spills, including a massive one in the New River in Onslow County, as industrial-style hog farming took off in the state.

Environmental groups partied in the streets. The powerful hog barons shook their fists toward Raleigh.

Then, a funny thing happened. The hog farmers and their integrator bosses suddenly realized that this moratorium thing wasn’t so bad after all.

If you were already in the business, a ban on new farms meant no new competition.

Since the initial ban, the moratorium has been extended three times, the last in 2003 for four additional years. The 2003 extension produced all the drama of a repeat of “Leave It to Beaver.”

After all, the industry and environmentalists were on the same side of the issue.

Don’t look for a repeat in 2007.

With the moratorium scheduled to end later this year, many of the state’s environmental lobbying groups seem bent on allowing the moratorium to drop. In its place, they want a permanent ban on any new open-air hog lagoons and a requirement that any new farms use cleaner technology to treat hog waste.

Dan Whittle, a lawyer with the North Carolina offices of Environmental Defense, says he also expects a push to establish a deadline for the conversion of existing hog lagoons to cleaner alternatives.

Then-Attorney General Mike Easley did call for “a strict timetable” to eliminate lagoons seven years ago when he negotiated a deal with Smithfield Foods and Premium Standard Farms to begin studying alternatives.

Obviously, the big pork processors, citing study findings that alternatives could cost as much as five times more than the current lagoon-spray field systems, aren’t likely to willingly go along with such a timetable.

A more interesting issue to watch will be the fight over a moratorium extension verses a requirement for any new hog farms to use new technology.

While replacing existing lagoons may be cost prohibitive, the environmental crowd argues that using newer technology rather than digging new lagoons is not.

As for imposing a deadline for phase-out of lagoons, that talk may be a negotiating position meant to get legislators to seriously consider a proposal to provide grant money for farmers who want to voluntarily switch to alternative waste treatment.

A bill to provide $10 million for such conversions went nowhere last year, even though a number of farmers backed the proposal.

The long-term answers won’t all come in 2007, but the year may well mark a start rather than a continuation of the decade-long pause that has been the moratorium.

* * *

Scott Mooneyham is a columnist for Capitol Press Association.

Comments

Comments closed.

Local

Catawba holds baccalaureate services for Class of 2021

News

$9M settlement for two men wrongfully sent to death row

Nation/World

China lands spacecraft on Mars in latest advance for its space program

Business

Gas crunch hits Washington; Colonial Pipeline paid nearly $5 million in Bitcoin ransome

Coronavirus

State mostly returns to normal operations after 15 months of lockdowns, restrictions

Crime

Blotter: Man accused of stealing car, crashing it

Crime

Man faces new charge of attempted murder for father’s shooting

BREAKING NEWS

Gov. Cooper lifts indoor mask mandate for most situations, gathering limits

Crime

Barnes gets new punishment of two life sentences in Tutterow couple’s 1992 murder

High School

High school football: State’s top honor goes to Jalon Walker

Local

Scout’s Honor: With dedication of flag retirement box, Salem Fleming earns Eagle Scout rank

College

North Carolina king, queen of NCAA lacrosse tourneys

Education

Kannapolis seniors walk elementary schools

Local

Local real estate company employees come out in force to build Habitat house

Local

Quotes of the week

Coronavirus

Auditors find oversight lacking for $3 billion of state’s pandemic aid

Nation/World

When will gas situation return to normal?

Local

Rowan native Shuping posthumously receives Concord Police Department’s Medal of Valor, Purple Heart

News

GOP measure on penalties for rioting draws fire

News

Black high school softball player told to cut hair

Coronavirus

State shows 303 COVID-19 deaths in Rowan

Coronavirus

CDC: Fully vaccinated people can largely ditch masks indoors

Crime

One arrested, another hospitalized in Castor Road stabbing

China Grove

China Grove Roller Mill open for tours Saturday