NC secures funding to continue voluntary program to close hog farms located in 100-year floodplain

RALEIGH – Nearly $5 million has been secured from state and federal sources for a fifth round of voluntary buyouts of swine farms located in the 100-year floodplain, N.C. Pork Council CEO Andy Curliss announced Tuesday. The funding will be used to close lagoons and acquire voluntary conservation easements that allow the farmer to retain farm ownership.

“We worked hard to secure this funding because our members care deeply about the land and water,” said Curliss. “This closure program, which has been unanimously supported by our board of directors, is a profound example of the many efforts by the pork industry in North Carolina to reduce even the possibility of harm.”

Created in 1999, the N.C. Swine Floodplain Buyout Program has invested more than $18 million to date to successfully buy out 43 swine operations in the 100-year floodplain. Land within the easements can no longer be used for animal agriculture but may be used for growing row crops, planting trees and other low-intensity agriculture activities.

Inundation mapping performed by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Emergency Programs Division indicates that 32 of those 43 closed hog farms would have likely flooded again during Hurricane Matthew.

The N.C. Pork Council recognized the effectiveness of the buyout program following Hurricane Matthew and immediately began seeking funding to continue the program, which had not received any new funding since 2007.

N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler committed to seek a federal grant and matching funds to support the buyout program.  Earlier this year, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service awarded a $2.49 million grant to the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Division of Soil and Water Conservation. Total funding of about $5 million for the program will be administered by NCDA&CS. A call for proposals will be announced in the summer.

“We appreciate the efforts of Commissioner Troxler and the Department of Agriculture to secure funding for the buyout program,” said Curliss. “Our farmers work hard every day to ensure that they do not cause harm to the places where they themselves live, work and enjoy recreational activities. This program is continued proof of that commitment by our membership.”

Because of strict regulations, there have been no hog farms built in North Carolina in more than two decades. Under state law, the permits cannot be transferred so any farms that close will mean less pork production benefitting the state’s economy.

Timeline of the lagoon buyout program

Phase 1 – 1999 $5.7 million; 17 farms

Phase 2 – 2002 $6.1 million; 18 farms

Phase 3 – 2004 $3.8 million; 5 farms

Phase 4 – 2007 $3 million; 3 farms

Phase 5 – 2018 $5 million