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Smithfield's Plan To Address Climate Change Earns Praise From Some, Scorn From Others

Smithfield Foods promised to cut emissions.

A major pork producer in North Carolina will address the industry's vulnerability to climate change. The move has won praise from one environmental advocacy group but scorn from another.

The Environmental Defense Fund applauded Smithfield Foods for the company's 10-year plan to capture 85,000 tons of methane per year and generate renewable energy from biogas.

Hog waste lagoons on large-scale farms that supply Smithfield--many in eastern North Carolina counties like Pender, Duplin, and Sampson--produce methane, a greenhouse gas.

Smithfield plans to install manure lagoon covers and a technology known as digesters on 90 percent of its facilities in North Carolina, Missouri, and Utah.

"Hurriane Florence demonstrated the vulnerability of hog farms to extreme weather and underscored the urgent need to prepare for the impacts of climate change," said Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp in a statement. "Smithfield is demonstrating leadership by investing in solutions that build climate resilience and cut greenhouse gas emissions."

But the Smithfield-contracted farms also produce noxious odors that plague neighboring properties. Nuisance lawsuits in North Carolina have led to jury verdicts in the millions.

"The company could have invested in cleaner, more responsible technology that protects families, communities, and our air and waterways, especially in the face of more intense storms," said Blakely Hildebrand, a staff attorney at Southern Environmental Law Center, in a statement. "Instead, Smithfield chose to further entrench the lagoon-and-sprayfield sysetem, and its injustices."

The Law Center maintains cleaner, alternative technologies for managing hog waste are both available and affordable to a multi-billion-dollar company.

Rusty Jacobs is WUNC's Voting and Election Integrity Reporter.
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