Putting People Before Big Pork, N.C. Governor Vetoes Hog Farm Bailout Bill

WASHINGTONIn a victory for property rights and public health, today North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed legislation that would have shielded big hog farms from liability for the pollution and stench that assault hundreds of thousands of people statewide.

The Republican-controlled state legislature could still override the Democratic governor. But Cooper’s veto was a big blow against Smithfield Foods, the politically powerful, Chinese-owned company that dominates North Carolina’s huge pork industry. Smithfield is being sued by hundreds of residents under assault by airborne liquid manure and noxious odor from nearby industrial-scale hog farms.

“This is a big win on behalf of hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians, including many who have seen their property and health harmed by the animal waste literally sprayed on them from factory farms,” said Craig Cox, EWG senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources.

“Gov. Cooper and his staff deserve praise for putting property rights and public health before Big Pork,” Cox said. “If this bill had become law, the long-standing legal rights of hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians would have been radically restricted, and Smithfield Foods and other companies would have been given free rein to pollute communities at will.”

Using county tax assessor data from across the state, EWG estimated that roughly 270,000 North Carolina property owners whose properties are near hog or poultry factory farms would have had their rights curbed had the bill become law. Last month, EWG published an interactive map showing that more than 60,000 residential parcels are within a half mile of an industrial-scale hog or chicken farm, or the open-air pits that hold the liquid manure of millions of swine. 

Documents filed today in federal court in the lawsuits against Smithfield include results of scientific testing that found “tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands” of DNA particles from hog feces in the yards of homes within a half-mile of a factory farm.

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