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Environmental and Social Issues

Overview of Environmental Concerns

During the past decade, the Tar Heel State has become the unwitting site of a giant explosion. North Carolina's hog population has grown faster than any state in the nation, swelling from 2.6 million to 10 million hogs since 1987. That's a 285% increase in hogs, compared to only a 14% increase in people.

North Carolina's hogs produce a mind-boggling amount of waste: 19 million tons of feces and urine a year, or over 50,000 tons every single day. That's more waste in one year than the entire human population of Charlotte, North Carolina produces in 58 years! To make matters worse, almost all of North Carolina's hogs are concentrated in the eastern coastal plain, an economically important and ecologically sensitive network of wetlands, rivers, and coastline.

Managing of all this hog waste effectively presents a significant environmental challenge – a challenge that is not being met by current regulations and industry practices. In many places, the problems have simply overwhelmed North Carolina's communities and environment.

The nation is watching to see how North Carolina handles its hog problem. It is up to all of us to demand solutions that will ensure that the "North Carolina example" is not a disaster to avoid, but instead, is a model to follow.

The Solution

North Carolina needs to adopt an effective, fair and feasible set of measures that will protect the state's environment, public health, and economy. At minimum, these measures should do the following:

-Require that all new hog factories meet permanent performance standards to achieve environmental and public health goals;

-Require that the hog industry clean up and properly close the more than 700 abandoned lagoons in eastern NC;

-Require that all existing hog factories meet these performance standards, and that hog factories using open-air lagoons and aerial sprayfields replace them with more effective waste management systems; and

-Require that hog farmers and the large industry producers (who own the hogs) share responsibility and liability for complying with environmental laws.

© 2004. last updated: April 28, 2004
Duke University Markets & Management Capstone Course