The chorus of voices calling on the Chinese conglomerate known as the WH Group to clean up its North Carolina hog farms continues to grow. After noting the just nature of the recent massive court verdicts in favor of hog farm neighbors who have been victimized by farm pollution and the unfortunate efforts of state lawmakers to limit such awards and defend the hog farming industry, today’s lead editorial in the Winston-Salem Journal puts it this way:
“As these problems first emerged, Republican legislators sided with the hog farms, portraying their operators as persecuted family farmers and the residents who were suffering from hog waste as nuisances who were intent on attacking the hog farmers’ livelihoods. But Smithfield Farms is owned by the WH Group, a Chinese company that is the largest pork producer in the world. Its profits approached $1 billion last year. It’s difficult to escape the conclusion that the legislature sided with a well-heeled Chinese company rather than North Carolina residents.
These lawsuits could have been avoided had hog farm operators been willing to adopt more modern techniques used in places like Missouri and Colorado, that contain the smell and residue better. It’s not too late to do so now.
‘These juries are repeatedly seeing problems with the kind of waste management that’s used,’said Cassie Gavin, a lobbyist with the North Carolina Sierra Club. ‘Clearly it’s time for the state and the industry to take a hard look at their waste management and modernize it so the public is protected.’
Farming is an important industry in North Carolina and should be supported. But that doesn’t mean that hog farmers should be allowed to make life difficult for their neighbors. Legislators should protect not just corporate farms, but also the health and well-being of those who live near those farms.
The legislature definitely should be supporting local residents. Isn’t this what we elect them to do?”