Disaster Averted by North Carolina Pig Farmers

Hurricane Florence
( MGN )

A report from the North Carolina Pork Council (NCPC) on Saturday updated the public on how well pig farmers in the state planned and prepared for the predicted devastation from Hurricane Florence. Despite numerous reports to the contrary, the pork industry in the state made sure animals were safe from the storm and that environmental precautions minimized potential lagoon breaches.

“Continued reports from farmers and veterinarians as well as first responders indicate that hog farms in North Carolina have not experienced substantial widespread impacts from Hurricane Florence, which continues to strike the state,” said Andy Curliss, CEO of NCPC.  

“Farmers have activated back-up power generation due to significant power outages,” he said. “On-farm reports indicate sporadic and minor wind damage to structures. Processing facilities are reported to be operational. Processing facility production schedules have not been announced, but it is anticipated that determinations will be based on employee safety.”

Curliss said farmers continue to watch forecasts for “historic, 1000-year flooding,” which is expected to occur over the next several days and potentially impact a number of counties.

“Many animals have been moved off farms that could flood, and additional measures will be taken as circumstances evolve,” Curliss said.

Storm Impact Severe
CBS News reported this weekend that some counties are withstanding significant rainfall amounts. One town received more than 30 inches of rain and forecasters were warning that rains totaling up to 3.5 feet “could trigger epic flooding through early next week,” CBS news said.

At least 12 people are confirmed dead from storm-related incidents, and the storm has reportedly knocked out power to nearly 1 million homes. Hundreds of flights have been cancelled into or out of the area in the last several days.

Lagoons Remain Within Capacity
According to Curliss, rainfall amounts across the region have not exceeded the available capacity of farm lagoons throughout the state. Fortunately, lagoon levels were low ahead of the storm’s arrival, Curliss noted.

“This was due to a dry late July to early September growing season, which afforded ample opportunity to properly manage levels by applying the treated effluent as a fertilizer on crops in accordance with agronomic rates and state regulations,” Curliss said in the news advisory.

“My pigs are safe,” said Marlowe Vaughan, a NC pork producer. “We are weathering the storm. Farmers always do.”

Not only are pig farmers taking care of their animals. Many of them are involved with the ongoing emergency response in their communities, including assisting with search and rescue operations.

imageMarlowe Vaughan, North Carolina pig farmer (Credit: N.C. Pork Council)

“We continue to express gratitude for their efforts,” Curliss said in the release.

Industry Under Attack
North Carolina pig farmers have been dealt several blows this year. Between the Smithfield nuisance lawsuits and bad weather, farmers in the state are portrayed far differently than they are. Read this article about Joey Carter to get a true picture of a North Carolina producer, and how he was impacted by a lawsuit.

As with any situation, activist groups took advantage of the difficult situation by putting a negative light on the pork industry.

“In advance of the storm, the North Carolina Pork Council saw widespread instances of inaccurate reporting in the media about the pork industry in the state, relying on activist groups who are exploiting the storm to advance their own agendas,” Curliss said.

“As with previous storms, some media outlets have fallen victim to this, and have published inaccurate information and photos. We have seen photos of municipal waste plants, poultry houses and other agricultural facilities inaccurately labeled as pig farms. We have seen barns that have been empty for multiple years characterized as active hog farms,” he added.

Curliss stressed the importance of helping clarify the actual situation, “especially in a breaking news environment where initial information is often inaccurate.

“It is precisely in these first hours and days that activists with an agenda seek to exploit the media. Our request: Beware of what you hear about hog farms during Hurricane Florence.”

Curliss provided this additional information regarding Hurricane Florence and producers’ preparedness in the face of severe storms.