Pork Farm Opposition

first_imgMany people want bacon on their burgers and ham for the holidays. Butnobody wants a pig in the parlor. And a Universityof Georgia economist says that not-in-my-backyard attitude poses areal threat to pork production in Georgia.”In the early 1980s, we had about 300,000 head of breeding stock,” saidJohn McKissick, an economistwith the UGA College of Agriculturaland Environmental Sciences. “Now we’re down to about 100,000 head.That’s not enough to support a processing facility that could sustain theindustry.”Hogs are still the No. 10 commodity in Georgia, with $168 million incash receipts in 1996. But production has steadily declined, especiallysince the 1996 closing of the Premium Pork processingplant in Moultrie, Ga.”Georgia producers now get $3 to $4 per hundredweight less for theirhogs than in other parts of thecountry. That’s because the hogs have to be shipped to the processors,”McKissick said. “And farmers here have to pay more for grain, which hasto be shipped in (mostly from the Midwest).”A new group of farmers, the Sunbelt Pork Cooperative, Inc., is exploringoptions for opening a newprocessing plant, McKissick said.The co-op hopes to process hogs grown not just in Georgia but in thesurrounding states. “But if Sunbelt opens a kill floor in Georgia,” hesaid, “we will have some expansion in pork production in the state.”Some proposed large hog farms in Taylor, Tattnall and Jenkins countieshave met vocal local opposition. Opponents of proposed 10,000- to 20,000-headhog farms argue that the farms’ÿ wastewould pollute local streams and groundwater supplies.The proposed large-scale farms aren’t related to the co-op’s effortsto build a processing plant, McKissick said. In fact, the proposed farmswould ship pigs out of the state, probably toMidwestern states, to be grown to size for slaughter.UGA engineer Mark Risse saidsuch large farms carry a greater risk of catastrophic failure fromhuge storms such as hurricanes. But the day-to-day waste managementis likely to be better.”We can design waste management systems that will protect surface waterand groundwaterquality,” Risse said. “It all depends on the operator, though. If waterquality problems arise froma hog farm, it’s because the operator isn’t managing the system properly.”Risse said that the same isn’t true of the smell.”If you have a big hog operation, you’re going to have an odor,” hesaid. “We have manyscientists at the university working on odor control. But we don’tpresently have a system designed to keep it from affecting air quality.The only answer now is distance.”Opponents of hog farms lately have been demanding huge distances. Theywant the farms in someother county, if not some other state. That’s not good for farmersor the state’s economy, McKissicksaid.”When you consider the uncertain future of some of our major products,particularly peanuts andtobacco, you can see how important it is to have some diversity inagriculture,” he said. “We needenterprises like pork production that aren’t land-based.”McKissick said the state needs to get back to the 300,000-head levelof the early ’80s. That wouldstill be only a third of the million-head level in North Carolina.”That’s the level the industry needs to support a processing plant,”he said. “That’s a level that canbe self-sustaining.”Interestingly, McKissick said expanding production to meet the needsof a processing plant wouldbe mainly in the form of the mid-size farms that draw little fire fromneighbors.”But the opposition to these proposed large-scale farms taints all ofhog production,” he said. “Itputs a damper on the industry’s efforts to rebuild.”last_img

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