Legislation approved in North Carolina will allow pork producers to rebuild after a natural disaster or change operations without having to follow decade-old distance requirements from homes or schools, according to The Charlotte Observer. The bill also provides a similar exception for farmers, many associated with Smithfield Foods, who are making plans to expand facilities for pregnant sows.

Swine houses built before the mid-1990s are exempt from buffer requirements, approved in landmark hog legislation in 1996 after some high-profile animal waste spills. Environmentalists said the new bill, which is slated for debate, is a step backward for the health and safety for those who live nearby.

"This represents the first significant erosion of existing protections," said Molly Diggins, state president of The Sierra Club. The current law requires swine houses built before July 1995 to stay at least 2,500 feet from schools, 1,500 feet from any residence and 500 feet from any property boundary.

The state's hog industry creates 48,000 jobs, according to the North Carolina Pork Council, mostly in eastern North Carolina. North Carolina is the nation's second-largest hog producer, behind Iowa.

Source: The PigSite.com