Prospects of having pork producers who own hogs but raise them out on contract share in the environmental responsibilities with their contract growers drew heated opposition at the first of three public hearings in North Carolina. It was held in Duplin County, home of Murphy-Brown headquarters and adjacent to Sampson County, home of Prestage Farms and Premium Standard Farms’ Lundy operation that serves the East Coast.

Likewise at another hearing held in Martin County (also in the state’s eastern section), several pork producers spoke against co-permitting. So did contract poultry producers at the third hearing, held in the west central part of the state.

The main purpose of the hearings was for the state environmental agency to receive comments from producers on the proposed National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits. DENR added the opportunity for comments on co-permitting to test the waters. DENR has not indicated that it will seek co-permitting procedures.

Some environmental groups repeatedly call for producer owners to be made legally responsible for any environmental violations that are caused by hogs and poultry they own but that are raised on contractors’ farms.

Speculation is that owners who contract out large numbers of hogs would bring those animals back into their care rather than take on joint environmental liability.

As for the proposed NPDES permits, the hearings revealed that producers were mildly critical, focusing on annual certification requirements and necessary record keeping.