While many hog farms in the eastern United States shared in the damage caused by Hurricane Irene, North Carolina's pork industry avoided major disruption, incurred minimal animal loss, continued to deliver products to market and suffered no serious damage to any of the state's animal waste lagoons, the North Carolina Pork Council reports.
After surveying the impact on agriculture both the Sunday following Hurricane Irene and on Tuesday, North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said he was pleased with pork producers’ preparation for the storm.
“One of the things I looked at was the condition of hog lagoons. When you get the amount of rain Irene dumped and there are few problems with lagoons, you’re in good shape," Troxler said.
Deborah Johnson, NCPC’s chief executive officer, said, "Reflecting on the last week, our pork producers did a good job not only in preparation, but also in real-time response to the storm. Our business is running as usual for the most part."
She added, "Despite the heavy rains, we had no reports of lagoons in serious trouble. This can be attributed to continuous management and extensive severe weather planning as farmers got ready for Irene."
The major effects of the storm among hog farming operations were power outages, trees down across roads, some roads washed out, roof damage to barns, some minimal animal losses and row crop damage.
The pork production companies played key roles in minimizing damage, according to Johnson. These efforts included ensuring adequate feed on farms prior to the storm, rapid damage assessment and relocating animals in a few instances.
Smithfield Foods, the world's largest pork producer and processer, said in a company release, "There is minor structural damage to some barns belonging to contract farmers in North Carolina and Virginia, but thanks to onsite emergency generators, all animals are continuing to receive regular food and water. All environmental pollution-control systems are still in good working order."
"I am happy and greatly relieved to report that all of our employees are safe," said C. Larry Pope, Smithfield's president and chief executive officer. He added, "I also want to thank our employees at our farms and plants for the outstanding job they did in minimizing damage from the hurricane. They followed our emergency preparedness plans and observed safety precautions, and it really paid off."
Days before Irene's arrival, the NCPC began advisory communications with producers, reminding the industry to monitor lagoon levels, ensure the well-being of the hog herds and to use proven strategies to cope with severe weather.
Most hog farms have individualized plans of action for heavy weather. Johnson said, "Our farmers put their plans into action and should be commended for protecting our environment. Even so, many suffered unavoidable row crop damage and we regret that."
According to a report circulated by The Insider, the state government's online news service, the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources said local wastewater treatment systems in at least 10 counties had reported overflows at pump stations or treatment plants, but there were no reports of overflows from animal waste lagoons.