This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Fact Sheet • August 2010 orth Carolina has more hogs than people.1 The 10.1 million hogs being raised on factory farms in the state make North Carolina a stark example of how industrialized agriculture changes the landscape of a community.
Those 10 million hogs come with a lot of challenges, and chief among them is what to do with the approximately four gallons of waste each hog generates every day.2 The waste from those millions of hogs is tough to manage — and for years it’s been polluting the environment and harming public health in North Carolina. Factory farms — industrialized livestock operations that raise tens of thousands of hogs inside buildings and store waste in open pits — create serious human health and environmental consequences. The millions of gallons of manure and other waste they produce cannot be properly managed and often spill into local waterways or leak into groundwater. They emit toxic chemicals that can harm human health and cause hazardous air and water pollution. People working in these facilities and those living nearby often suffer intensely from the odors and emissions from these operations. Even if you don’t live next to one of these operations, you’re not immune. Consumers eating the meat produced there are faced with the consequences of antibiotic and artificial hormone use and other food safety problems triggered by this type of intensive animal production.
nomic pressure has led many livestock producers to follow the meat industry’s mantra to “get big or get out.” Hog farming has always been an important part of North Carolina’s agriculture. However, lenient environmental regulations and local zoning exemptions attracted corporations like Smithfield and Premium Standard Farms in the 1990s, and hog farming in the state has never been the same.
Why North Carolina?
The meat industry has changed dramatically over the past 20 years, with mergers leading to more market share for the top players and farmers getting paid less and less for their livestock. After decades of mergers and consolidation, four companies slaughter more than 60 percent of hogs in the United States.3 In a given region, farmers likely have no more than two meatpackers to sell their animals, and in many places, they have only one. With fewer options for farmers to sell their animals, meatpackers effectively control the terms of livestock sales and farmers become little more than sub-contractors to the companies. This eco-
ferred to as “lagoons.” Lagoons can cover six acres or more and hold more than 20 million gallons of wastewater.10 The quantities of waste are enormous — one estimate found that one farm in North Carolina with 2,500 pigs produced 26 million gallons of liquid waste, one million gallons of sludge and 21 million gallons of slurry per year.11 This waste is then sprayed onto nearby agriculture fields (thus called “sprayfields”), often in amounts that far exceed any need for nutrients to fertilize crops. These lagoons and sprayfields emit noxious odors into surrounding communities. The odor affects the quality of life for neighbors who can no longer hang their laundry out to dry, sit on their porches or even open their windows. Even worse, dangerous gases such as ammonia and hydrogen sulfide also emanate from animal factories. Studies have shown that neighbors of these facilities suffer from respiratory problems, anxiety, depression and sleep disturbances that can be attributed to exposure to factory farm emissions.12 The huge quantities of waste generated by hog factory farms also threaten water quality. Manure contains significant amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus. When manure enters waterways after lagoons overflow or leak, or when manure applied to fields runs off into nearby waterways, these nutrients fuel algae and other aquatic plant growth. With enough nitrogen and phosphorous, algal blooms can deplete the oxygen in the water, resulting in fish kills and serious taste and odor problems. These are not hypothetical threats — North Carolina’s waters have been polluted repeatedly by waste from hog factory farms. In one four-year span, lagoons spilled 2 million gallons of waste into the Cape Fear River, 1.5 million gallons into its Persimmon Branch, 1 million gallons into
The hog population in North Carolina nearly quadrupled from 2.5 million hogs in 19884 to more than 10 million hogs by 2010.5 This increase in hogs was accompanied by a rapid decline in the number of farms, as large confinement operations put traditional farms out of business. In 1986, there were 15,000 hog farms in the state,6 but by 2007, just 2,800 remained.7 In North Carolina, Smithfield is the dominant player in pork. After the company’s acquisition of its largest competitor, Premium Standard Farms, in 2007, Smithfield now controls an estimated 90 percent of the hog market in the state.8 As of 2006, Smithfield owned 244 farms in North Carolina — or about one out of 10 hog operations — and buys hogs from many more operations they do not own.9
North Carolina Hog Inventory (in millions)
12 10 8 6 4
Factory hog farms each house thousands of pigs that generate tons of liquid and solid waste. The hog feces and urine fall through the slatted floors of the buildings where the hogs are confined and into a pit under the building. This waste contains toxins, including ammonia, methane, hydrogen sulfide, cyanide, phosphorus, nitrates and heavy metals, as well as antibiotics and other drugs given to the hogs. After the waste accumulates under the buildings, water is used to pump the waste into enormous open-air pits re-
Source: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service
the Trent River and 200,000 gallons into the Turkey Creek. In 2003, hog waste flowed into the Neuse River and killed 4 million fish in five days. But perhaps the most infamous example of the danger hog factories pose to the environment came in 1999, when Hurricane Floyd hit North Carolina and the Tar, Cape Fear, Neuse, Roanoke, Pamlico and New Rivers were deluged with an estimated 120 million gallons of hog waste and countless drowned hogs.13 Fish are not the only victims. Nitrates from factory farms that end up in surface and groundwater threaten the health of nearby communities. Health risks from excessive nitrate exposure include risk of blue baby syndrome, disruption of thyroid function and bladder cancer.14 And nitrates are not the only contaminants making their way into drinking water from manure. The long list includes heavy metals, antibiotics, pesticides and pathogenic bacteria.15 In North Carolina, the burden imposed by these facilities is not spread equally through the state. Nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of these factory-farmed hogs are concentrated in five counties in the eastern part of the state,16 which are some of North Carolina’s most impoverished areas. One study found that in North Carolina, industrial hog operations are disproportionately located in communities of color and communities with higher rates of poverty.17 In light of the numerous negative impacts factory farms have on public health, in 2003 the American Public Health Association called for a moratorium on the construction of new factory farms.18
Who’s in Charge?
Factory farms are supposed to be regulated at the federal level by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under laws such as the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act. But the oversight of factory farms by the EPA has been weak to nonexistent, in part because of constant efforts by the livestock industry to weaken or eliminate environmental regulations. The industry has spent years lobbying Congress to be exempted from various pollution reporting requirements, as well as trying to block regulations requiring permits for releasing waste from factory farms into local waters. The rules on which factory farms have to apply for water discharge permits have been tied up in court for decades and are still in flux, leaving states in charge of implementing a confusing and ineffective permitting system. And the record is no better when it comes to air pollution. In 2005, the EPA introduced a compliance agreement that effectively offered factory farms a free pass for air quality violations as long as they participate in and pay for part of a study on air emissions from factory farms.19 It’s clear that the federal government is not doing enough to regulate the factory farm industry. But North Carolina doesn’t have to wait for the federal government to figure it out. The state legislature can take long-overdue action to rein in this industry that has so dramatically altered North Carolina’s agriculture system, public health and environment. In 1997, North Carolina established a moratorium on building new hog waste lagoons20 and in 2007, the legislature made this ban on new lagoons permanent.21 Unfortunately, this doesn’t impact the lagoons that are already in use. Watchdog groups that have been tracking this industry for years have seen the industry continue to expand,22 and the number of hogs being raised on factory farms in the state has increased over the last decade.23 A long-term research project in North Carolina identified alternatives to manure lagoons and open spraying of waste on fields. But the industry in North Carolina maintains that they intend to keep lagoons and sprayfields in use.24
Time for a Change
Over the last two decades, large factory hog farms in North Carolina have put thousands of independent hog farms out of business and dramatically changed the way pork is produced, causing serious public health issues and major environmental damage in our communities. It’s time to move North Carolina away from polluting factory farms and towards a sustainable and diversified agricultural economy. The North Carolina General Assembly should: 1. End the current industry practice of using open-air manure lagoons.
2. End the current industry practice of spraying liquefied manure onto fields. 3. Initiate a study on how North Carolina can transition from a large-scale industrial livestock model towards a more diversified and sustainable agricultural system.
11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24
What You Can Do
Join the growing movement to deal with the waste problem caused by hog factory farms. Tell your state legislators it’s time to rein in hog factory farms in North Carolina. Go to www.foodandwaterwatch.org to learn more and take action.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 U.S. Department of Agriculture. National Agricultural Statistical Service; U.S. Census Bureau. “Annual Estimates of the Population for the United States, Regions, States and Puerto Rico.” July 1, 2009. Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “Manure Production Per Space of Capacity.” Appendix A to the Manure Management Plan Form. 2004 at 2. Hendrickson, M. and W. Heffernan. “Concentration of Agricultural Markets.” Department of Rural Sociology – University of Missouri. April 2007 U.S. Department of Agriculture. National Agricultural Statistical Service. U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2007 Census of Agriculture. U.S. Department of Agriculture. National Agricultural Statistical Service. U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2007 Census of Agriculture. Sorg, L. “With merger, the world’s number 1 would get even bigger.” The North Carolina Independent Weekly. April 4, 2007. Smithfield Foods. Securities and Exchange Commission 10-K Filing for Fiscal Year ended May 2, 2010 at 13. Marks, R. “Cesspools of Shame: How Factory Farm Lagoons and Sprayfields Threaten Environmental and Public Health.” Natural
Resources Defense Council. 2001 at 3. Ibid. Donham, K.J. et al. “Community Health and Socioeconomic Issues Surrounding Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations.” Environmental Health Perspectives. Vol. 115(2). February 2007 Tietz, J. “Boss Hog.” Rolling Stone. December 14, 2006. Pew Commission on Industrial Food Animal Production. “PCIFAP Staff Summary of Occupational and Community Public Health Impacts.” www.ncifap.org/reports/ American Public Health Association. “Precautionary Moratorium on New Concentrated Animal Feed Operations.” 2003. www.apha.org/ advocacy/policy/policysearch/default.htm?id=1243 Food & Water Watch analysis of USDA 2007 Census of Agriculture. Wing, S. et al. “Environmental Injustice in North Carolina’s Hog Industry.” Environmental Health Perspectives. Vol. 108; 225-231. 2000. American Public Health Association. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “Animal Feeding Operations Consent Agreement and Final Order; Notice.” Federal Register. 2005. “Senate enacts ban on new hog-waste lagoons,” The News & Observer, April 19, 2007. North Carolina code § 143-215.10I. “Performance standards for animal waste management systems that serve swine farms; lagoon and sprayfield systems prohibited.” Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation. www.neuseriver.org/neuseissuesandfacts/hogsandcafos.html U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2007 Census of Agriculture. “North Carolina Keeps Swine Lagoons.” National Hog Farmer. July 26, 2007.
For more information: web: www.foodandwaterwatch.org email: email@example.com phone: (202) 683-2500 (DC) • (415) 293-9900 (CA) Copyright © August 2010 Food & Water Watch
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.