Last week was busy on the hog front in South Carolina. On Monday, the governor imposed a 15-day moratorium on new hog farms, his legal limit. On Tuesday, a state regulatory board extended it to May 17, again its legal limit. By Wednesday, legislators introduced bills in the House and Senate to ban indefinitely any new hog farms with 249 head or more.

Hog farms have been regulated in South Carolina since 1996 but environmentalists and some lawmakers say the regulations are not strong enough.

The state Farm Bureau said it was surprised by the push for tighter regulations. It believes the state’s previous regulations were among the toughest in the nation.

Touching off the flurry of activity was the announcement that Carroll’s Foods, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, was planning to have a couple contract producers build large finishing facilities. Both were issued permits 2 years ago but construction had not started. Capacity of one would be more than 17,000 head, the other would be more than 14,000 head. Both are in counties adjoining North Carolina and would be served by Carroll’s feed mill at Laurinburg, N.C.

Pork Magazine asked Don Butler of Murphy-Brown, the Smithfield management firm that is also oversees Carroll’s, about Smithfield CEO Joe Luter’s recent statement that the company does not plan to expand its hog production in the Carolinas. Butler said, “That’s right. Smithfield-owned companies are adding no sows in either state. The new farms will help balance our finishing capacity with pig production. We are farrowing more pigs than we can finish.”

He said two Smithfield companies cuurrently have a total of 30 farms in South Carolina. Carroll’s has one company-owned, 2,400-sow farrow-to-wean operation, one contract nursery and 11 contract finishing farms. Brown’s has 17 contract finishing farms. Murphy has no farms in South Carolina.