Lagoon closures in eastern North Carolina will soon begin as part of the state’s program to buy out hog farms in the 100-year flood plain. Emptying and closing the first lagoon is scheduled for later this month.

That particular operation is the smallest of the first 14 operations on which conservation easements are being acquired. It involves an independent producer who runs a 50-sow, farrow-to-finish operation in Pender County. The owner chose not to repopulate after the fall 1999 floods. The fact that he has land immediately available for the state’s contractor to spread lagoon contents makes him first in line for the process.

Easements have been “closed” on seven other farms and lagoons that will be shut down after crops are removed and lagoon contents can be spread. The remaining six farms are in various stages of surveying, having their titles prepared and checked legally. Those lagoons should be closed sometime this winter.

The owners submitted buyout bids to the state and these 14 are the first to be accepted. The bids ranged from $96,500 to $695,000, and averaged $284,486. Five of the operations are run by independent producers, nine are contract producers.

Time will tell how many more flood-prone farms are bought out and closed. Funding is sidetracked in the North Carolina General Assembly while lawmakers work to alleviate the state’s budget crunch. Likewise, a request for federal funding is tied up in Washington, DC.