Pure Farms, Pure Waters
I am not sure what most people think of when they hear the word “hog farm” or even “poultry farm”. I know that the first thing comes to my mind is poop. Granted, I read and study farms in terms of how their waste is regulated and how it affects our surface water. Growing up I probably thought of Wilbur and Charlotte running around happily in the barn yard. The word “farm” can be used equivocally with the term CAFO in NC. CAFO stands for concentrated animal feeding operation. Farms have become so intensive with their animal operations that in the past 30 years, the number of individual hog farms in the US has declined by 70%; yet the number of hogs remains almost the same (Natural Resources Defense Council). Now, 2% of livestock farms raise 40% of all animals in the US. This is because many of the smaller sized farms that were geographically dispersed throughout the country have conglomerated under huge meat producing companies like Smithfield. Smithfield Foods Inc. is the largest pork producer and processor in the country. Smithfield has purchased several meat-producing farms such as ConAgra Foods, Butterball, Murphy Farms, and Premium Standard Farms. In fact, Smithfield now controls approximately 90% of the hog market in NC alone. It is evident that Charlotte’s Web is history and has been long gone for some time now.
NC has more hogs than they do people. One hog produces 10 times more fecal waste than one person. Now you know why I automatically think about poop when I hear the word “farm.” Enough about that. Do you have an idea to how many farms you live in a 50 mile radius of? 25 miles? 10 miles?! I bet it would surprise you. I randomly picked a house on Google Earth in the Raintree neighborhood off of Gum Branch Rd. There are four farms (3 hogs and 1 poultry) all within a 1.25 mile radius! The Jacksonville Airport includes 15 farms within only a 5 mile radius. It makes sense when you think about how small our watershed is compared to others like the Neuse and the Cape Fear. Because our river is small, it means we have the opportunity to make a huge difference in our river since we do not have to worry about other issues going on upstream and out of our hands. Yet that means if these farms are not adhering to proper waste management regulations set by the Clean Water Act, our river will feel the effects full force!
I am one of many NC Riverkeepers making sure our farms abide by the Clean Water Act. Pure Farms = Pure Waters! This past February, the president of Freedman Farms, Inc. was sentenced in federal court to five years probation and fined $1.5 million dollars for violating the Clean Water Act when his farm discharged hog waste into the Waccamaw River back in December 2007. There will be much more information to come in the next few months regarding CAFOs in eastern NC and the work being done to protect our water. Stay tuned!