North Carolina’s ban on hog waste lagoons is now permanent but the long-awaited environmental measure may not have a big effect immediately.

The law prohibits hog producers from building new open-air waste lagoons, to capture and store solid and liquid hog waste and bans expansion of existing lagoons. However, with the current economic challenge to the pork industry, little expansion is planned.

"We’re just in survival mode right now," said Angie Whitener, policy and communications director for the North Carolina Pork Council. "The new law won’t be a burden because there’s not anybody out there right now who’s expanding or building new farms with the economic conditions the way they are," she said.

The law, which prohibits construction of new open-air hog waste lagoons, provides measures intended to encourage farmers to experiment with new methods of disposing or recycling hog waste, according to The law was passed in 2007 and took effect Thursday.

North Carolina has more than 2,300 hog farms. The ban on new lagoons also imposes stronger environmental standards designed to minimize air and water pollution, as well as the spread of pathogens. It also is intended to control the odor from more than 10 million hogs on farms across the state, mostly in the east. 

The law requires new waste management systems to eliminate the discharge of animal waste to surface and groundwater and to eliminate the release of ammonia and other odors beyond the boundaries of the farm. It does not require farmers to replace existing hog waste lagoons.