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Hog Farms - Good Neighbors

Karen Priest

"We purchased our house in 1987, before a hog slaughtering plant was even in our county. And about four years ago, a hog farm was built behind our house and they raised 7,300 topping hogs. And another hog farm is located about one mile west of my house which raises 6,000 topping hogs--and it's been a nightmare for us for the last four years. We have not opened our windows. Occasionally, we smell it inside our house, which we're lucky--a lot of people get it all the time but we only smell it occasionally in our house.

"The odor's usually worse in the mornings around 6:30--that's the time I get up and go out to get the newspaper and it'll hit you in your face some mornings when you walk out. And that's how I start my day--just angry that I walk out my door and smell this mess and have no control over it. And another time it's really bad is usually around 7:30 or 8 at night--it's just awful then; it's like a cloud rolling in."

"We did have a birthday party a couple years ago at the house. And one of my child's friends came up to my husband and said--'Will you please call my mommy to come get me--I cannot stand the smell.'--And that hurt. That really hurt bad."

According to our soil and water conservationist, he estimated that in Bladen County about one-third of our hog growers are actual farmers and the others are corporate and contract growers and they're not farmers and he admitted that. And our county economic development director that we had a couple years ago, he told me after a meeting one night--he said you will not see any good industry coming to Bladen County. All you're going to see now will be hog-related.

These are not traditional hog farms, these are just giant waste disposal areas. The only reason a lot of so-called farmers grow crops is just to have a place to spray the waste that they're generating. They're not farmers, they don't know how to farm and it's just sad to me--to see this happen, to see the run off and to know about the polluted streams, creeks and rivers--this is not farming. It's industry.

Joe Johnson

"Well we had paradise. We were living the American Dream and we got married and we had a chance to buy an acre of land and a home. And we were real tickled--you couldn't be no more tickled. We were about a mile off the highway, we were back in Bear Swamp is where it's at. And anybody who loves the outdoors, anybody loves nature or anybody just loves to be alone--that was perfect. I mean now that was to me and my wife, that was our American dream, that was happiness."

"We're surrounded right now by 21 hog houses and we don't have any happiness. We don't have any home life--our home's been destroyed."

If I had any protection, them hogs got it. Ain't no consideration for Joe and his house, it's hogs.

To start with, waste is sprayed completely around our house except for one corner. If you can imagine coming to our house--everybody knows what it's like to go by a city sewage and most of the time you'll have sewage lagoons on either side of the road and you go through. Well that's out of town and it's a way out. Well around my house you can hook a rock over the car hood or sling it sideways in a hog lagoon.

"I won't say when you smell it--I'll say when you don't smell it. Our lives have been completely and 110 percent destroyed."

"Around my house, you got the hog house effect. And that is when you leave or you come in, the last thing you smell when you leave is hogs; first thing you come in is you smell hogs. When you get to the house, you get to a place that you're--I'll be completely honest, it's a prison. You've got the shades pulled, you've got the curtains pulled--you've got peepholes, which in a prison you would call "check holes"--I reckon to walk by and look in the cell.

Well around my house it's to walk and look out to see--not that you want to know what's going on 'cause you know what's going on. Number one--you know that if there's any commotion out there, they're setting up a sprinkler out there to spray hog waste. Number two--is if you're looking, they're loading out hogs or coming to get hogs. Anything that you do inside of that house is done so you don't have to go outside of that house."

"When you see my situation and where I'm at, I'll not belittle myself enough to say it stinks today. Because where I'm at and surrounded by 21 hog houses, who in the world with good common sense (and you don't have to have good common sense, just common sense) would tell you "that fellow smells it." They smell it and that's our scenario."

"But now this hog house effect, now that means I'm completely surrounded by either "sprayfields" or hog houses. And yet they tell me there's no reliable way to measure. What in the world do I need to measure for--I don't need to measure. If you've got a Diamondback rattlesnake and he's fixing to bite you, you don't want to know how long he is! You want to know two things: how quick you can get away and how quick you can kill it."

What gets me is that if my county health department comes to my house and sees my lid off my septic tanks--Bud, ain't I in trouble. Number two, if they see one of my lines leaking--Bud, ain't I in trouble.

But yet, 75 feet from where I have to lay my head at night you can run a gun that'll shoot a 60 foot stream of hog waste out there by my house? Now you tell me who has and hasn't got their priorities straight, now.

Lived in Duplin County all my life.

First job I ever had wasn't three miles from here loading watermelons in back of a trailer--25 cents an hour. Second job I ever had was tobacco--50 cents an hour. I've had jobs and that's been my life in and out of agriculture. I'm going to tell you something about this new age farming now. I've known a lot of farmers and I've respected a whole lot of farmers and still do. But I'm going to tell you something--if hog farming is an example of farming in the future, they have no future.

John Carr

Over twenty years ago, one of the neighbors put in a couple of hog houses with a lagoon system. At the time it was a ?? area--most people had hogs that were in runs or in small houses that were either drug over the property, or barns. At the time, no one really took too much notice of it. We smelled the hogs during my childhood and (actually it was probably over 20 years ago) we smelled the hogs a few times a year--no big deal because we're all used to smelling hogs and used to smelling livestock on all farms. It wasn't really offensive in that it wasn't something we smelled everyday.

"Back in (I believe it was) 1990, he [neighboring factory hog farmer] added on five more [hog] houses to that operation. That's when the complexion of the whole situation changed for me--is that, instead of smelling the houses occasionally, it got so bad during the time of the start-up of the houses that we could not go outside our homes. It was impossible for my children to go out into the yard to be able to play in our yard. It was a nuisance for me to go from my house to my truck to go to work inthe mornings. And the thing that really got me realizing this was completely wrong was the night I sat down to my supper table and could not eat supper, because the smell of stench in my own dining room from a [hog] house that was _ mile away."

My family's been in Duplin County since the 1740s, and here it is the hogs are trying to run me out in the 1990s. And, this is ridiculous. How can anything become this out of control with politicians overlooking it--knowing it's happening. And yet no one's coming to our rescue to say "hey, this is wrong and there has to be some justice in this." And so far our state has not taken on the responsibility to allow justice to happen.

"Each one of these hog operations that we have here in eastern North Carolina--it's hard to conceive of, but like the operation I'm talking about right now produces the amount of waste of a city of around 40,000 people. And you're talking about one man responsible for that amount of waste. He can go in and ruin--one operation can go in and ruin--the average neighborhood and rural Duplin County. There's a lot of areas maybe not have too many families that are affected by it. [But] in Northern Duplin County, where every operation's put in there's going to be a least five or six families, at a minimum, that are going to suffer from this one person trying to make a living. Somewhere or another, that seems wrong to me when a lot of people have to sacrifice the quality of their home so that one person can have that kind of commodity on his farm."

I'm not too optimistic about any type of system that can maintain too many hogs in an area the size of Duplin County. I hear people say that it can be done. I'm not anyone that's ever been involved in water treatment, but I don't understand where nitrates--we're bringing in millions of metric tons of nitrates down the railroad from the Midwest, and bringing them into Duplin County and feeding them to our hogs; and the nitrates are in Duplin County. There's no train cars heading back out to the Midwest with the nitrates that are coming in from the corn back out to be able to be put on their fields. They're being put on the fields in Duplin County, which has been noted to be saturated with nitrates to start with.

If you take and assume that the air's going to take care of the nitrates, it's just going to translocate it maybe up to 100 miles and its going to dump into--it's eventually going to go into the tributaries or in the groundwater of an area within a 100 mile radius of Duplin County. The only solution I see--I understand there is some way that some can be broken down with enzymes and that sort of thing--but it's still the bulk of the nitrates are always going to be here unless the number of hogs are cut down. I don't see how we can survive too many hogs in Duplin County and make it fit for people to live.

Tom Mattison

On the 21st of June, 1995, Oceanview Farms, in the upper reaches of the New River, above Richlands, North Carolina--their lagoon ruptured, completely inundating us with 25 million gallons of hog waste and manure. When that happened, they destroyed 17 miles of everything alive in the river.

Well, traditional hog farms basically were family farms, and they went on for generations, and, and the old farmers always wanted to pass on to their sons, and their children, the tradition of hog farming. These corporate entities, now, with the almighty dollar and greed ruling supreme, will, there will never be, under the current situation, a third-generation hog farmer in North Carolina, because they'll kill everything is sight before they ever get there. And they're putting all of the independent hog farmers out of business.

They don't bring jobs--they destroy jobs. And they destroy the boating industry, and the tourist industry, the fishing industry. They destroy the drinking water industry. What difference does it make how much a pound of bacon costs if you don't have any water to wash it down with? It doesn't matter.

Well, the one thing that we can do is wake up the sleeping giant--the people out here in this nation, that understand that corporate entities can not be allowed to rule, with their almighty dollars.



"Serious problems cannot be dealt with at the level of thinking that created them."
 Albert Einstein
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