The rural residents who took on the world’s largest hog producer – and won

Mostly black rural residents in North Carolina took on the hog industry’s biggest producer, Smithfield, and won multimillion-dollar verdicts over hog pollution, writer Barry Yeoman reports in FERN’s latest story. But the story, produced with The Nation, points out that these judgments are far from certain as an appeal gets underway early next year.

Yeoman spoke to some of the plaintiffs who had filed suit because of the stench from hog operations, which store their waste in lagoons and then spray it on crop fields, affecting their neighbors. These are not only noxious odors, Yeoman points out, but could involve health risks as well.

Smithfield denied any wrongdoing and fought the suits, but it lost five judgments worth millions of dollars. Yeoman also reveals that the company cut off hog producers who were named in the suits, no longer allowing them to produce  for the company.

This is the second story Yeoman has written for FERN on the North Carolina hog industry. The first, published in August 2019, detailed the way the state for years made complaints about livestock operations disappear. North Carolina rectified that system, however, as part of a settlement agreement and is now publishing more complaint data. The latest story is also available on FERN’s site.