Who Wins in Pigs v. People? North Carolina Case Nears Trial

Mar 9, 2018  | 3 min  | Ep4329

In June of 1995, a major storm in North Carolina softened a dike surrounding one of the larger hog manure lagoons in the state. The subsequent collapse of that single lagoon, released 25 million gallons of effluent into nearby streams, killing thousands of fish.

The massive spill spurred state officials to take a closer look at how the hog industry was regulated. Producer contact paul.yeager@iptv.org 

A MORATORIUM and a stack of REGULATIONS followed.

More than 20 years later, the hog industry is still under attack and a Chinese conglomerate is square in the cross-hairs.

Paul Yeager has more.

Some neighbors near swine operations in the nation’s 2nd largest hog producing state are crying foul over distribution of the animal’s waste.

Those complaints fostered dozens of odor nuisance lawsuits scheduled for trial late last year against Murphy-Brown LLC, a subsidiary of North Carolina-based Smithfield Foods.

The mist created when manure lagoon wastewater is sprayed onto fields is a major point of contention in the litigation. Lawyers for the plaintiffs plan to present DNA testing evidence showing tiny particles of hog feces are settling over their clients’ properties.

Terry "Pap" Adams, Lives Beside North Carolina Hog Farm: "When the wind is right, you get it. ... It's like a mist. When they spray that stuff,  it's like a mist. Every time the thing hits like that, it throws a mist off. It'll be right pink with hog blood, manure and all that stuff.”

A former Environmental Protection Agency engineer conducted testing on homes near several hog farms in southeast North Carolina. The swabs used on the outside 14 of 17 structures came back positive for pig2bac, a genetic marker linked to the presence of hog feces. In at least one case, the marker was found inside a home located less than 500 feet from a hog lagoon, separated by a narrow buffer of trees.

Smithfield lawyers contend the testing methods are shoddy and unreliable. A microbiologist who has consulted with the EPA says the study of pig2bac is far from conclusive.

An analysis by the Environmental Working Group and Waterkeeper Alliance in 2016 revealed hog operations in North Carolina alone generate more than 9.5 billion gallons of fecal waste annually.  

Pork production is a $2.3 billion industry in the Tar Heel State where 9 million hogs make their home.

Everette Murphrey’s operation in Farmville, churns out 5,700 hogs a year for Smithfield. His center pivot irrigation system sprays downward, minimizing drift.

Everette Murphrey, Smithfield Contractor: "I've never had a complaint from a neighbor. Never."

Last spring, North Carolina lawmakers passed legislation protecting hog and other agricultural operations against lawsuits like one pending in federal court.

The first two of 26 trials against the world’s largest hog producer and processor are set for April in North Carolina.

For Market to Market, I’m Paul Yeager.

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