The Farmkeepers is the official blog of NC Farm Families. It is here that words will flow, our voice will be heard, a stand will be made, and the farm families of North Carolina will be protected. In these posts, we'll set the record straight. You'll see the faces of the families who feed us. Here, you'll receive all the updates and news. It is here that we will fight for farmers and be the keepers of the farm in NC. We hope you'll join us. Follow along on social media and by joining our email list.
 
The Reality of Living Next to a Hog Farm
June 6, 2017

by: Marisa Linton

If you listen to some activist groups and read some news accounts, you’d think living next to a hog farm is a miserable life.

What you should do is talk to people who do live next to hog farms. Like farmers who live on their farms. And people like me who have lived beside a hog farm for 10 years.

“I built my home near my farm because it is beautiful out here,” says Gaye Crowther, a hog farmer. “With the pig barns and the cattle and horses grazing in the fields, there is hardly a more picturesque setting.”

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Photo first appeared in the NC Pork Report

It goes beyond the aesthetic beauty of living on their farms, though. For many farmers, it is family land, and living on that land is part of continuing a legacy and tradition. Dale and Angie Dunn chose to live in a small house across from their hog farm when they were newly married.

“I didn’t even have a clothes dryer, so I hung all my clothes out on a line, and we lived right across from the hog farm. I worked at the hospital as a nurse, and I never had anyone tell me my clothes had a smell of hog odor,” says Angie Dunn.

When it came time to build a family home, the Dunns had other spots available but they chose to build right across from the hog farm to be close to family and carry on the tradition.

“It was important to us to build our home on family land where we could be close to our family. Our children were able to grow up with their cousins,” says Angie.

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Dale and Angie Dunn with their children Mary and Daniel

There is also a practical side to living within eyesight of the hog barns.

“We can keep our eye on it and monitor for intruders…we can also see if the lights and fans are on. If they go off, that endangers the pigs’ health. It’s really nice to be able to look out our window and see those things,” says Angie.

Dale and Angie Dunn raised their two children by the hog farm. Daniel, their son who is in high school, also says it is nice to live next to the hog farm because they can easily check on the pigs. He also said that he never had any problems living next to the farm growing up.

And what about the waste being sprayed? How close does that get to their house? Does it bother them?

The Dunn’s house has fields on all sides of it. Some of those fields are sprayed on with hog waste. When asked if it bothered them, Angie and Dale said that while it can smell sometimes, it isn’t a problem and doesn’t concern them.

“Why would it? It’s only corn and water,” says Dale. “Those hog houses are a reason I was able to build the home I have now. They paid for it.”

It isn’t just families who raise hogs who live near hog farms. There are many neighbors living contentedly next to a hog farms too.

I should know. I am one of those neighbors. I’ve lived next to a hog farm for more than a decade, and I don’t mind one bit. Sometimes I smell it, but I live in the country, and I expect that from a farm, just as I would expect to hear extra noise if I lived in a big city. I am still able to cook out and spend time outside with my family. I trust the hog farmers. They are good people who like spending time outside the same as I do.*

Gaye Crowther just had relatives from Birmingham, Alabama down to her house and farm.

“We were pumping during that time. They thought the farm was really peaceful and beautiful. We all sat on the front porch while the reels were pumping,” says Gaye.

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Gaye Crowther sitting on her front porch with her dog.

A lot of loud voices criticize hog farmers. They paint an ugly picture. But the loudest voice isn’t always the right voice.

*Marisa lives in Wayne County with her family. She acts as Director of Engagement for NC Farm Families. Marisa loves living in the country on land that has been in her family for over a century. She has a passion for agriculture and believes in the people who are involved in it. 


 
Facts Contradict Elsie Herring’s Story
May 31, 2017

She’s an internet star for Earth Justice, Environmental Justice, Environmental Working Group, the Waterkeeper’s and operation R.E.A.C.H. She’s told her story on websites for Mother Jones, Policy Watch, Indy Week, Democracy Now and Raw Story. She’s the voice of ‘environmental justice’ groups. The unofficial spokeswoman for lawyers suing hog farmers. She’s Mrs. Elsie Herring.

And the story she tells goes like this: The hog farmer next door to her home sprays his field “three or four days on a slow week” – and sometimes “daily.” And occasionally “at night.” The odor is so bad she can’t go outside. She can’t sit on her porch. She’s trapped, a captive in her own home.

It’s the dramatic tale of ‘the captive lady and a cruel farmer’ and Elsie Herring’s told it over and over for years.

But there’s a problem.

Every time the hog farmer sprays his field he has – by law – to keep a record for state inspectors to review. Here’s a photo of the farmer’s ledger:

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Did he occasionally spray at night? No.

Did he sometimes spray daily? No.

Did he spray 3 or 4 times a week? No.

In fact, over the last 6 months the farmer only sprayed on 2 days and, then, he only sprayed an average of 2 hours and 8 minutes each day.

Recently, Mrs. Herring was back on the Internet.  She’s told her story many times. A lot of people have heard it. But look at the facts. Look at the farmer’s ledger. Look at this video:

Go down to her home and look at the grove of trees between her house and the farmer’s field. The facts contradict her story. Why does she continue to tell it? We don’t know. But we do know the facts tell a different story.


 
Fake News?–Reported Flooded Hog Farm is Actually Municipal Wastewater Treatment Plant
May 19, 2017

Last fall the day after the hurricane the Waterkeepers Alliance spun a tale to the Washington Post and the Post published this photograph (below) to prove hog farms swamped by the hurricane were spreading pollution:

hookTwo days later Deborah Johnson of the Pork Council emailed the Post: This isn’t a photograph of a hog farm. It’s a municipal wastewater treatment plant.

When the Post didn’t reply Johnson wrote a letter to the editor – but the Post didn’t publish the letter.

Then Angela Fritz of the Post wrote her: “It’s been a busy week for us but I just wanted you to know that we received your email and we’ll get back to you soon.”

No one heard from the Post for the next four months.

Then, in February, Mrs. Fritz responded to another email by saying, Let me talk to my co-authors…and I’ll get back to you soon.

March, April and part of May passed with the Pork Council asking over and over for a correction but the photo remained on the Post’s website. Then, almost seven months after the story ran, the Post published a correction – sort of. It added one line to the story on its website: “Correction: A previous version of this story included before-and-after photos of a flooded hog farm that was inactive. We have removed that photo.”

With the stroke of a pen the Post had turned the Hookerton municipal waste treatment plant from a hog farm into an ‘inactive’ hog farm.

 At best, that’s a half-apology. But, at least, the newspaper removed the photo.

 


 
Esquire, stick to the subjects you know best
May 12, 2017

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The latest attack on North Carolina hog farms comes from an unlikely source: Esquire magazine.

Now, Esquire is a perfect resource for celebrity interviews, men’s fashion advice, and things like that. Just this past week, they posted helpful articles such as How to Take the Stress Out of Wearing Suede Shoes and How to Pick a Haircut Like Your Celebrity Hair Doppelgänger.

When it comes to those important issues, Esquire is a “go to” resource. But an article this week about HB 467 and North Carolina hog farms (I love the smell of pig sh*t in the morning!) proves that they don’t know sh*t about farming.

The article repeats the same tired, untrue claims that have been made for years by the Waterkeeper Alliance and others who want to put North Carolina family farmers out of business. The writer claims that, “wind being what it is, sometimes the spray takes wing and people’s houses get a primer coat of pig shit.”

To further illustrate the point, Esquire quotes Cape Fear Riverkeeper Kemp Burdette: “You could be sitting on your back porch, and depending on the wind, have hog (expletive) sprayed on your kids.”

Clearly, this reporter didn’t bother to learn anything about our industry or the strict regulations that all North Carolina farmers must follow, including a mandatory 200-foot setback from their neighbors.

Esquire should stick to the subjects they know best, like this one: You Don’t Have to Be on Vacation to Drink a Piña Colada.


 
NC Farmers React to Cooper’s Veto of HB 467
May 6, 2017

 

 

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Thousands of family farmers across North Carolina are expressing disappointment today over Gov. Cooper’s decision to veto House Bill 467.

The decision to veto a bill that would protect family farmers from predatory lawyers is a blow to North Carolina agriculture, our state’s number one industry.

“I’m so disappointed with Gov. Cooper’s decision. He doesn’t know how many farmers he has let down,” said Lorenda Overman, a Wayne County farmer.

Elwood Garner had a similar reaction.

“It’s disheartening,” Garner said. “This bill could help keep hog farmers in business. We’re already the most regulated industry in the state and we’re not doing anything wrong.”

In his veto message, Gov. Cooper expressed concern about providing protections to a single industry. But North Carolina law offers special protections to countless industries – from fast food restaurants and skate parks to construction contractors and technology companies. Farmers deserve the same protections.

Louis Howard, a farmer from Kenansville who was previously targeted in a nuisance suit, was stunned when he heard the news. “I just don’t know what to say… Farmers like me were counting on this bill to protect us. I know just how dangerous these lawyers are.”

“I’m very disappointed, but not surprised,” said Gaye Crowther, a farmer from Tabor City. “He vetoed it even though it passed with strong support, bipartisan support. As a pork producer, I’m concerned because it makes us more vulnerable to lawsuits.”

We urge the NC General Assembly to stand with farmers and override the Governor’s veto.

 

 


 
Statement by North Carolina Farm Families on Veto of House Bill 467
May 5, 2017

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Governor Cooper’s veto is a hard-blow to farmers. The pork industry invests billions of dollars in North Carolina. Farmers and integrators support their communities and give generously to charitable causes. They strive every day to be good environmental stewards and, above all, good neighbors. The hard-working family farmers who raise hogs in North Carolina deserve better than this.

If Governor Cooper’s veto stands, it will jeopardize tens of thousands of jobs in our state. It will jeopardize the incomes and economic survival of thousands of farm families. The economic losses could be devastating to rural communities. The only winners will be predatory lawyers who swoop into rural communities, turn neighbor against neighbor for one purpose – to generate huge financial windfalls for themselves.

HB467 passed both the House and Senate with support from Democrats and Republicans. We call on the North Carolina General Assembly to quickly override Governor Cooper’s ill-advised veto.

 


 
DC Activist Group Sides With Predatory Lawyers: Threatens Thousands of Jobs in North Carolina
April 24, 2017

 

DSC_0327Twisting the law and twisting scientific facts are nothing new for the anti-farm Washington, DC-based activist group EWG. Now EWG is taking the side of predatory lawyers against North Carolina farmers. If EWG is successful, thousands of jobs in hog farming and pork processing will be in jeopardy.

In an April 17 news release, EWG criticized – and misrepresented – House Bill 467, which has passed the N.C. House and is before the Senate.

The bill will protect family farmers against ruinous, massive tort litigation, such as a current North Carolina case. There, lawyers swooped in on private jets and aggressively signed up hundreds of residents for “nuisance” lawsuits against hog farms. Some residents didn’t know what they were signing. Others live miles from the farms they are suing.

The lawyers seek huge financial damages, based solely on claims that the farms are an “annoyance,” “bothersome” or make other residents “fearful.”

That is wrong. Here is how HB 467 fixes the problem:

  • It makes clear that plaintiffs in nuisance cases can recover only the lost market value of their property.
  • It still allows anyone who has suffered actual harm to sue for higher damages.

EWG is twisting the facts about the legislation. By misleading legislators and the public, EWG is serving the interests of predatory lawyers who could force any farmer into bankruptcy without just cause. That in turn would jeopardize employees in processing plants. And it would threaten the economic livelihoods of thousands more people whose jobs and business depend on hog farming and pork processing.

EWG also attacked Smithfield Foods in an attempt to stir up opposition to farmers and the pork industry.

Here are the facts:

Smithfield was founded and is based in Smithfield, Virginia. Kenneth M. Sullivan is President and CEO. Smithfield is a subsidiary of the WH Group, a publicly listed company on the Hong Kong Exchange. Anyone, anywhere in the world can purchase shares of the WH Group. In fact, the WH Group’s shareholder list includes large institutional investors such as U.S. pension funds and hedge funds.

Smithfield provides nearly 12,000 jobs in North Carolina, in farming and processing. The company has 215 company-owned farms in the state. It contracts with 1,380 independent pork producers, who are family farmers.

Members of the legislature and the general public should reject the anti-farm campaign of EWG and its allies. Stick to the facts. Protect farmers. Save our jobs.

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Dear Fayetteville Observer, You Fell For the Spin
April 19, 2017

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‘American Rivers’ dangled a bit of bait in a press release and the Fayetteville Observer swallowed it hook, line and sinker.

Consider this: ‘American Rivers’ – and even the Waterkeepers Alliance – agree the Cape Fear River is safe for swimming, fishing and kayaking. But, at the same time, American Rivers claims the Cape Fear is one of the ten “Most-Endangered Rivers in America.” So, is the Cape Fear safe for swimming? Or is it one of the ten most polluted rivers? You might have expected the Observer to ask that question. And, if it had, American Rivers would have explained – as it candidly admitted when others asked – that its broadside about the Cape Fear wasn’t based on science. Or a scientific report. It was based on American Rivers’ political agenda.

American Rivers’ press release was simple: It attacked farmers, talked about farms in flood plains, then threw in the words ‘Most Endangered Rivers’ and the Fayetteville Observer fell for the spin.

Here’s a fact from North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality: During Hurricane Matthew, 99.5% of the hog farms didn’t overflow or have spills – while sewage plants spilled 63 million gallons of raw waste into rivers and streams.

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It’s no surprise ‘American Rivers’ left that fact out of its press release. Unfortunately, so did the Fayetteville Observer.


 
Stopping Predatory Lawyers
April 14, 2017

Stepping to the microphone, Mrs. Elsie Herring – a Community Organizer for the Environmental Justice Network in Duplin County – explained to the reporters at the press conference why she opposed House Bill 467.

Mrs. Herring repeated the same charges she’d made for years: She said a farmer sprays hog waste eight feet from her house. She’s also said, in interviews, she lives as a prisoner in her own home – that she can’t go outside because of the smell.

It’s a horror story. But is it true?

Is a hog farmer actually spraying waste eight feet from Elsie Herring’s house?

Here’s a photo of Mrs. Herring’s house:

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From her house, you can’t even see the farmer’s field. It’s on the far side of the trees.

Here’s another photo – an aerial photo – of Mrs. Herring’s house, the trees, and the farmer’s field on the far side of the trees.

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The farmer’s field is 200 feet – not eight feet – from Mrs. Herring’s house. Which is state law – no farmer can spray within 200 feet of a neighbor’s house.

And here’s a photo Mrs. Herring, interviewing with another reporter, saying she’s a prisoner in her own house – while sitting on her front porch. Outside.

elsie herring interview

By law, every hog farmer must file a record with the state every time he sprays.

Four years ago, out-of-state lawyers – who saw hog farms as ripe targets for an unusual type of lawsuit – came to eastern North Carolina and went to work, going door to door, signing up clients. They said: We’ll bring the suits, we’ll pay the bills, and, if we win, we’ll split the money. Elsie Herring was one of the people who signed up.

On the internet, the debate over House Bill 467 has turned into a political brawl with half-true and untrue charges flying. What House Bill 467 actually does is simple – and here’s why it will make a difference: This legislation will protect family farmers from lawsuits by predatory lawyers.


 
A Response to Sierra Club’s, “Hog Hell”
March 10, 2017

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Meet Adam Skolnick  He’s a freelance writer from California. He didn’t study journalism but loved to travel, so he decided to “write my way around the world.”

 His travels recently brought him to Duplin County to write about North Carolina hog farms for the Sierra Club magazine. Most trips like this require a knowledgeable tour guide who knows the lay of the land, and that’s where poor Adam made his first mistake.

Rather than talk to a hog farmer or perhaps a professor of agriculture at NC State, Adam asked the Cape Fear Riverkeeper to be his guide. And when you rely on a guide with a knack for distorting the truth, you end up with an article that gets even the most basic facts wrong.

 In the very first paragraph, Skolnick describes the Duplin County landscape, including barns “built tall for drying tobacco, which along with rice… used to blanket this rich earth.”

 Huh? No one has grown rice in North Carolina since the 1800’s. Even then, it wasn’t much – and it certainly wasn’t grown in Duplin County.

 Adam Skolnick had made a mistake – and he was about to make another.

 He wrote that Smithfield Foods was once a “U.K.-Owned” company. But Smithfield Foods is located in Virginia, not England. It’s never been British owned.

 The blunders continued to pile up.

 He interviewed a local resident and listened to her explain that she never goes outside anymore because of the odor from nearby hog farms. It never occurred to him he was interviewing her on her front porch. Outside.

 He showed a hog farm in a video, then showed a sewage pipe spilling pollution into a stream. But the pipe had nothing to do with the hog farm. It wasn’t even on the farm.

 He wrote about odors from hog farms causing asthma, but official health reports show asthma rates in Duplin County are declining.

 And, of course, he repeated the Waterkeepers’ tale about hog lagoons failing during Hurricane Matthew. He never mentioned, if he even knew it, that more than 99.5% of the state’s lagoons had no leaks or spills.

 Adam Skolnick may have meant no harm. But he didn’t check the facts. And he fell for the Waterkeepers’ mantra about the evils of hog farming hook, line and sinker. Unfortunately, the Sierra Club magazine published it all.


 

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