After five years of exhaustive research on 20 North Carolina hog farms—and reams of detailed data—the team of scientists and economists can see light at the end of a long tunnel.

In three weeks, a detailed report will be released on all but two of 20 technologies that have been measured in a variety of ways. It will, however, contain no specific projections or recommendations regarding economic feasibility.

In December, reports on the other two technologies will be included in a "final report." That's when the $17.5-million study is scheduled to end. It's part of the  agreement reached in 2000 between the North Carolina Attorney General, Smithfield Foods and Premium Standard Farms.

The July 25 report will show how well each technology  performed in each of these ways:  Waste discharged, atmospheric ammonia released, odor, pathogens and heavy metals in waste water.

Team members with North Carolina State University and other institutions agree that these measurements can be pinpointed and compared. But other measurements are far less conclusive.

Highlights of the July 25 report will be divulged at a public meeting the evening of July 21 in Raleigh, N.C. The detailed report will then be available at the Web site
www.cals.ncsu.edu/waste_mgt.

Commenting on the technologies' economic feasibility, Mike Williams, North Carolina State manure specialist, told PORK magazine: “It is far more difficult and sometimes impossible to forecast a precise 10-year annualized cost and possible income from a byproduct. Also, potential cost-share assistance is certainly uncertain.”                

Far more difficult, he continues, is the task of calculating cost-benefit ratios and each technology’s projected impact on the North Carolina swine industry.

The research team is considering adding two innovative, large-scale waste-processing systems, which are currently in operation. One is Smithfield Foods’ Best Bio Fuels gasification operation in Utah. It utilizes manure from 120,000 hogs. The other is Premium Standard Farms’ fertilizer operation in Missouri, Crystal Peak Farms. It utilizes manure from approximately 100,000 hogs and is marketing a product.

After the North Carolina Attorney General’s staff reviews the Dec. 31, final report, he will meet with Smithfield Foods and Premium Standard Farms executives to discuss the next step in their three-way agreement:  The integrators will determine which, if any, of the technologies will be adopted on their company-owned farms and when.