Floodwaters Impacting Some Hog Farms; Meat Plants Reopen

At top left, farm with a lagoon breach and damaged empty barn in Duplin County. Photo at bottom right is from Sampson County. ( North Carolina Pork Council )

As floodwaters from Hurricane Florence continue to impact the Carolinas, hog farmers are closely monitoring animal health, farm structures and manure lagoons.

Initial reports show farmers were well-prepared as possible, but rains continue to fall in eastern North Carolina. Reports from the North Carolina Pork Council confirms several hog farms have been affected by flooding.

“We are aware of one lagoon breach that occurred on a small farm in Duplin County, where an on-site inspection showed that solids remained in the lagoon. Four additional lagoons have been inundated by floodwaters,” according to NCPC’s Sept. 17 update released at 9 p.m. The roof of an empty barn was also damaged on the farm. (See photo above.)

Seven lagoons are at capacity due to rainfall and appear to have overtopped.  

lagoon breach
Duplin County hog farm with a lagoon breach and damaged empty barn taken Sept. 17, 2018. Breach is
shown at top right of lagoon. (Photo: North Carolina Pork Council)

"We do not believe, based on on-farm assessments to date and industrywide surveying, that there are widespread impacts to the more than 2,100 farms with more than 3,000 anaerobic treatment lagoons in the state. Waters from the record-shattering storm are rising in some places and receding in others, and we expect further impacts to be reported as conditions and access allows."

Processors Reopen for Business

As flood waters continue to rise and recede depending on the area, meat processors are closely watching roadways, transportation and employee safety before reopening.

Monday, Perdue Farms Inc. resumed operations at Lewiston, N.C., Dillon, S.C., and Rockingham, N.C.

Tyson Foods Inc., plants in the Carolinas and Virgina also reopened Monday.

As of Monday morning, Smithfield’s Tar Heel plant was not damaged in the storm, but remained closed. Assessments of Smithfield’s farms and suppliers were still being completed.

“Processing facilities are reported to be operational,” the Raleigh-based pork council said. “Production schedules have not been announced, but it is anticipated that determinations will be based on employee safety.”

Additional background:

During Hurricane Matthew, one inactive farm experienced a partial breach and 14 additional lagoons were inundated with floodwaters. Monitoring performed by the state after the hurricane determined that water quality was not negatively impacted.

Helpful Definitions:
Breach: A breach is a structural failure of a lagoon — the lagoon walls give way and can no longer hold back the lagoon contents.

Inundation: When a lagoon is inundated, the walls remain intact, but floodwater rises over the sides and fills the lagoon. By design, solids are stored and remain at the bottom of the lagoon, and the liquids at the top are heavily diluted, minimizing the environmental impact.