It’s not tar that North Carolina factory farm heels are tracking

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 1997:

N.C.––Dumping manure into Mud
Creek for more than seven years and
ignoring a September 1996 clean-up
order, dairy farmers James Sexton
Jr. and Charles E. Sexton on
November 11 drew 30 days in jail
each for contempt.
Superior Court Judge
James Downs said they would be
released as soon as a new manurehandling
system is in place and certified
by the North Carolina Soil and
Water Conservation District.
That meant the Sextons
would actually serve about two
weeks, James Sexton said, alleging
unfair treatment. Just before their
sentencing, the Sextons had temporarily
removed their cattle from
the property, dug a two-acre cess
lagoon, and ordered $32,000 worth
of sewage separation equipment.

If by “unfair” James
Sexton meant “uneven” treatment,
he had a point.
Ruling in a case brought
by the Environmental Protection
Agency, U.S. District Judge
Rebecca B. Smith on August 8 fined
Virginia-based Smithfield Foods
$12.6 million, the largest water pollution
fine ever, for polluting the
Pagan River and Chespeake Bay
with pork production offal and withholding
relevant evidence.
Smith convicted Smithfield
of 6,982 individual violations
of the federal Clean Water Act since
1991––and could have fined the $4-
billion-a-year firm $174.6 million.
The largest meat packer on
the east coast, Smithfield said it
would appeal. Smithfield claims
most of the violations were legal
under an deal made with state regulators
after Smithfield chair Joseph
W. Luter III gave $125,000 to
Virginia governor George Allen’s
political action committee.
Smith ruled that the Clean
Water Act supersedes state deals.
Smithfield also owns the
Carolina Food Processor pork plant
in Tar Heel, North Carolina, which
was fined $32,000 for polluting the
Cape Fear River in 1993-1994, and
has since been cited by the state for
20 similar violations.
Those were heavy raps as
North Carolina action against the
hog industry goes.
A year after annual inspection
of hog farm manure systems
was to begin, the Southern Environmental
Law Center and North
Carolina Coastal Federation jointly
reported, only 27% of the 2,912 hog
farms in the state had actually been
inspected––but 87% of those that
were inspected had code violations,
and 10% had serious violations.
The inspections won legislative
approval in mid-1996, a
year after hog slurry spills killed all
the fish in several rivers and apparently
contributed to outbreaks of pfi –
esteria, an aquatic parasite that kills
fish and can incapacitate people.
Meanwhile, after North
Carolina governor James Hunt on
April 8 proposed a moratorium on
approvals of new hog operations,
the Division of Water Quality
approved 47 of 51 proposed startups,
plus 17 expansions, adding
500,000 hogs to the state count of 10
million. A two-year moratorium
finally took effect on August 27.
One of the last approvals
will allow one Larry Jones, 30, to
build a 2,000-hog barn and spray
liquid slurry on 100 acres between
Croatan National Forest and Long
Point, self-described on a protest
petition as “a small predominantly
black community of approximately
95 families,” and identified by
Raleigh News & Observer s t a f f
writer James Eli Shiffer as “one of
the most impoverished parts of a
county already considered economically
Jones dodged rules requiring
hog barns and lagoons to be at
least 500 feet from homes and parks
by getting waivers from his grandmother
and Croatan National Forest
district ranger Lauren Hillman, who
told Shiffer she was “confused”
when she signed it.
Raised stink
Shiffer on October 14
revealed another reeking scheme.
“The nation’s largest hog-producing
county will not have water quality
regulators checking its waste
lagoons for violations,” he reported,
because on the quiet, “State senator
Charlie Albertson had a few paragraphs
inserted in the (state) budget
to exempt his home county and
another county from inspections by
the state Division of Water Quality.”
Instead, for the next year inspections
would be done by the Division
of Soil and Water Conservation––
“an agency charged with assisting
farmers, not enforcing environmental
laws,” Shiffer explained.
Albertson’s county, Duplin,
has more than two million pigs,
and is home of Murphy Family
Farms, the $200-million-a-year
pork empire built by Wendell
Murphy. Murphy served three terms
in the North Carolina legislature and
two terms in the state senate, retiring
in 1992 just before his name surfaced
in a campaign finance scandal.
Wrote News & Observer
colleague Bob Williams on October
22, “In an abrupt reversal, the Hunt
administration has decided not to
include the nation’s largest hog-producing
county in an experimental
program that will limit regulators
from inspecting large livestock
farms. Hunt last week said he was
not aware of the pilot program until
it was reported in the media.”
Posturing as latter-day
saints of development, Smithfield
Farms, Murphy Family Farms, and
two other North Carolina pork producers,
Carroll’s Foods and Prestige
Farms, are now creating a 50,000-
acre, million-hog joint operation
called Circle Four Farms in Milford,
Utah. It will generate more cess
than all the people in Utah.
Circle Four long since
choked dissent, says Williams, by
hiring influential Mormons, in a
state where 75% of the people are
Mormon––and by securing passage
of the 1994 state Agricultural
Protection Act. “The act grants
agricultural enterprises broad immunity
from local zoning and nuisance
laws,” explains Williams. “It is similar
to North Carolina legislation that
Wendell Murphy championed and
ultimately saw passed as a member
of the North Carolina senate.”
Circle Four also influenced
Milford leaders to choke the
local newspaper, the Beaver County
M o n i t o r, with an ad boycott begun
after owner/editor Alice Smith, 56,
investigated odor problems.
More poop
Similar pork barrel politics
directed by Texas state senator Teel
Bivens castrated the Texas Natural
Resource Conservation Comission
between December 1993 and mid1995,
Jim Morris of the H o u s t o n
Chronicle charged on November 10.
Curtailing TNRCC anti-pollution
enforcement has helped Texas Farm,
a subsidiary of Nippon Meat Packers
Inc. of Osaka, Japan, to set up
facilities for 340,000 hogs in Ochiltree
County, Texas––with plans to
nearly double in size soon.
Illinois state Republican
leaders in early November blocked a
proposal by Democrats including
U.S. Representative and gubernatorial
candidate Glenn Poshard that
would have allowed counties to
block the siting of any hog farm
with 3,750 or more feeder hogs.
But the hog industry isn’t
the only branch of factory farming
getting away with bigtime poop.
Lobbyists for Delmarva
Poultry Industry Inc., a front group
“funded largely by Perdue Farms,”
according to Peter S. Goodman of
The Washington Post, on October
27 killed a motion by Maryland state
senator Brian E. Frosh (D-Montgomery)
to cap chicken production
so as to limit pollution from chicken
manure. Chicken poop is believed
to be responsible for feeding a late
summer rash of p f i e s t e r ia blooms,
which killed at least 30,000 fish and
also afflicted at least 37 people.
Instead, a state commission
probing the p f i e s t e r i a p r o b l e m
ratified a Perdue proposal that the
state should subsidize the $19 million
estimated cost of equipping feed
mills to add an enzyme called phytase
to chicken feed. The enzyme
allows chickens to digest more phosphorus,
the most problematic nutrient
in chicken manure.
In California, now the
leading U.S. dairy state, the 891,000
dairy cattle on 1,600 Central Valley
farms produce as much manure as
21.4 million people––more than live
in any state but California, which
has 32 million people.
Yet fewer than half the
farms have ever been inspected, and
state officials believe as many as
half routinely violate pollution laws,
San Francisco Chronicle staff writer
Elliot Diringer recently reported.
“In the past six years,”
Diringer wrote, “dairy groups have
contributed more than $700,000 to
state election campaigns, most of it
to incumbents in the legislature.”
Milk is California’s leading
farm product, worth $3 billion a
year––twice as much as any other.

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