By Anna Simet,
At one time not too long ago, North Carolina was populated with more pigs than people. While that’s no longer true, the state trails only Iowa among pork-producing states, and the industry employs roughly 46,000 North Carolinians, provides $3 billion in annual income and $7 billion in annual sales, and its 2,100 farms—80 percent of which are family-owned—are home to 8.8 million hogs, living on farms that range from 250 to 50,000 head.
For the past two decades, the industry has been increasingly regulated, as a way to manage hog waste and improve and preserve environmental quality. In 1997, a moratorium was placed on the expansion of existing hog farms and the development of new ones. Fast-forward 10 years later, and the moratorium became permanent, with a provision that new permits could be issued only to farms that meet five environmental performance standards: Elimination of discharge of animal waste to surface waters and groundwater through direct discharge, seepage or runoff, as well as substantial elimination of atmospheric emissions of ammonia, emissions of odor detectable beyond the boundaries of the parcel or tract of land on which the farm is located, the release of disease-transmitting vectors and airborne pathogens, and of nutrient and heavy metal contamination of soil or groundwater.