Georgia DNR board defers consideration of plan intended to expand hog farming across state

By David Pendered

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect DNR’s comment on the status of the proposal.

Environmentalists are praising a decision by state officials to indefinitely delay consideration of a proposal to ease regulations on hog farming.

Hog waste is piped into lagoons, where it is stored until it's sprayed on nearby land. Credit: jhenryfair.com

Hog waste is piped into lagoons, where it is stored until it’s sprayed on nearby land. Credit: jhenryfair.com

“We applaud the DNR Board for helping to put a stop to the shortsighted rollback,” Chris Manganiello, policy director for Georgia River Network, said in a statement.

The state decided to pull the proposal for further review following the large number of public comments received, most of them negative, DNR spokesman Kevin Chambers said Monday. An additional public notice will be released if the department decides to pursue the proposal, Chambers said.

The board that oversees the Georgia Department of Natural Resources has been considering a proposal that would increase the number of hogs that could be farmed with little oversight. The board conducted a hearing on the plan in October and was slated to vote on it at its Dec. 3 meeting.

The proposal would increase the number of hogs from 7,500 to 12,500 that could be farmed without the following safeguards:

  • Notice to neighboring land owners before operations begin;
  • Limits on open waste lagoons and spraying systems;
  • Facilities to have the financial resources to close old waste lagoons;
  • Stronger buffers between facilities and state waters, public water supplies, schools and occupied homes;
  • Restrictions on permitting operators who have multiple environmental law violations in the past.

Hog farming has never been a big business in Georgia. However, it has expanded considerably in North Carolina. Georgia had about 345,000 pigs and hogs in 2002 and North Carolina had more than 10 million hogs in 2004, according to reports by the New Georgia Encyclopedia and Duke University, respectively.

Georgia environmentalists feared a similar expansion could begin in Georgia if the rules were eased.

The state DNR board enacted regulations on hog farming in the late 1990s. At the time, Georgia faced two proposed large-scale hog farming operations, according to the Georgia River Network: A 10,000 hog facility in Tatnall County, and a 20,000 hog facility in Taylor County.

“At that time, the DNR Board members did their due diligence and then acted to protect the health and private property rights of the people of Georgia,” Mark Woodall, chair of the Georgia Chapter of the Sierra Club, said in a statement. “We cannot understand why the Georgia protections should be made weaker than the current North Carolina and South Carolina requirements so delaying action was certainly the right thing to do.”

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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