South Carolina's Department of Health and Environmental Control board has proposed stricter rules for the state's large hog farm businesses.
If the board's proposed rules become law, large hog operations would be required to predict the overall effect their farms would have on the local environment over the next ten years. According the DHEC, this policy is unprecedented for the Southeast. The new rules would also require a 25-mile distance between large hog farms, a ban on open waste lagoons on the biggest farms and a requirement that would make large farm corporations post money to properly close waste-contaminated hog farms. The board is also proposing a change in the definition of a large hog farm from about 7,100 pigs in the original rules to about 3,500, resulting in more farms being affected by the tougher regulations.
State lawmakers are focusing on hog farming regulations in light of concerns that the swine industry may migrate more from North Carolina into South Carolina. North Carolina is a top hog-producing state, with approximately 10 million pigs. Regulators there have tightened the hog farm rules due to an increasing concern about environmental issues surrounding them. South Carolina's industry is much smaller in comparison, at an estimated 300,000 pigs.
Farm companies would have one year to develop their 10-year growth projections. Some complain that because of the ever-changing market, it is unrealistic to project over ten years the number of pig farms they may need in South Carolina. Agency officials say the proposed rules will help South Carolina determine how many pig farms the state can safely absorb without fouling the air or contaminating rivers.
The state legislature is currently holding hearings about the proposed rules. If they are approved by the state Legislature, the regulations could take effect as early as July 2002.
Minnesota note: Minnesota ranks third in U.S. hog production. While the annual number of hogs has remained steady at about 9 million, the number of hog operations dropped from 35,000 in 1980 to 7,300 in 2000. The number of operations with 2,000 or more hogs grew from 5.3% in 1996 to 11.6% in 2000. There were 240 operations raising 5,000 or more hogs in 2000. (Sources: Star Tribune and 2001 Minnesota Agricultural Statistics)