EPA to investigate North Carolina biogas for discrimination
The Environmental Protection Agency has notified North Carolina civil rights groups that it will investigate whether state regulators discriminated against communities of color when they approved four applications to convert hog waste into fuel. (No paywall)
Has the American truffle finally broken through?
Despite millions of dollars of investment, many American truffle orchards have never produced any truffles at all, and only a handful produce more than a few pounds. But now, as Rowan Jacobsen explains in FERN's latest story, published with Smithsonian Magazine, an unlikely trio has seemingly broken the nation's "truffle curse" with an orderly orchard beneath loblolly pines in North Carolina's Piedmont region.(No paywall)
North Carolina advocate who successfully fought hog industry dies
Elsie Herring, who died this week, was the public face of the many rural North Carolinians who felt besieged by the proliferation of industrial hog farms. In a region where complaining about these operations was considered both risky and futile, she confronted the industry over its pollution for more than two decades and never let herself appear intimidated. No paywall
Biden’s EPA nominee navigated diverse interests in North Carolina
In nominating North Carolina’s Michael Regan to head the Environmental Protection Agency, President-elect Joseph Biden has tapped a state regulator who for the past four years has navigated a political divide as contentious as the one he’ll face in Washington, D.C.(No paywall)
North Carolina records show scope of pandemic in meat plants
During the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic, the outbreak was far worse at several North Carolina meatpacking plants than was previously known and had spread to previously undisclosed facilities, documents released in a public records request show. "At the height of the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of positive cases at 10 North Carolina meatpacking plants was 75 percent higher than reported publicly," according to FERN's latest story. (No paywall)
Smithfield settles suits over North Carolina farms, after losing appeal
Smithfield Foods announced Thursday that it had reached a settlement with plaintiffs who had sued the company over the stench, flies, buzzards, and truck traffic coming from its industrial swine farms in North Carolina. The announcement came immediately after the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, rejected a call from the world’s largest pork producer for a retrial in a lower court case it had lost. (No paywall)
Judge declares much of N.C. ag-gag law unconstitutional
A federal judge handed a victory late Friday to animal-welfare advocates when he declared that much of North Carolina’s ag-gag law violated the First Amendment’s free-speech provisions. U.S. District Court Judge Thomas D. Schroeder’s ruling could also help employees who are trying to expose slaughterhouses that put their workforces at risk for Covid-19 infection, according to an attorney for the plaintiffs.(No paywall)
North Carolina food bank scrambles to feed the hungry
Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina distributed 82 million pounds of food last year, but this year it's scrambling to find the food and volunteers to deliver food directly to people in need, many of them seniors, Barry Yeoman writes in FERN's latest story. (No paywall)
In North Carolina, pandemic prompts farmer cooperation
Even before he knew that city officials in Durham, North Carolina, would be suspending the local farmers’ market, George O’Neal was preparing for disruption. Last Saturday, he stood behind a table piled high with mustard greens and kale, holding a clipboard and taking names for what he hopes will become a model of coronavirus-era collaboration.(No paywall)
‘Nobody wants another Flint, Michigan,’ judge tells Smithfield in hog-case appeal hearing
Attorneys for a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer, went before the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, Friday and asked three judges to overturn a $3.25 million jury award in a lawsuit filed by neighbors of a large North Carolina hog farm. …
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 …
Journalism group supports ag-gag overturn in North Carolina
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press along with 21 other media groups filed a brief last week in support of efforts to overturn North Carolina's ag-gag law, which criminalizes the collection and sharing of information about farm business practices with reporters or advocacy groups.
Dorian has limited impact on North Carolina manure lagoons
A handful of livestock farms reported high water levels in their manure lagoons, but no breaches or overflows, after Hurricane Dorian left North Carolina with limited damage compared to Hurricane Florence a year ago. Gov. Roy Cooper summarized the views of local officials, residents and business owners, in saying over the weekend, "This could have been much worse for our state."
Complaints about North Carolina’s hog industry vanished in state bureaucracy
For years, complaints about hog pollution in North Carolina disappeared after they were filed with state authorities, FERN's latest story with The Guardian and the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting says. But as a result of a settlement with environmental justice groups, the state this year began posting complaints online – exceeding in six months the number of complaints in the prior decade.
Environmental groups sue to challenge North Carolina right-to-farm expansion
Four environmental groups filed a constitutional challenge on Wednesday against recent amendments to North Carolina’s “right-to-farm” laws. The suit takes on two state laws, passed in 2017 and 2018, that limit residents’ ability to file nuisance suits against large-scale livestock farms and the …
Enviva, a giant in wood pellets, shifts tree-sourcing policy
Enviva, the largest industrial wood-pellet manufacturer in the world, launched what it calls an “enhanced and expanded global sourcing policy” last week in partnership with Earthworm Foundation, a non-profit that helps businesses reform their supply chains. The announcement came a few weeks after the publication of a report by FERN, in collaboration with The Weather Channel, spotlighting the company’s environmental practices.
GOP hoots ‘elitist’ as Democrats question USDA’s plan to relocate researchers
Hoping to dissuade Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, farm-state Democrats in Congress asked for a cost-benefit analysis that would justify moving two USDA research agencies out of Washington. Two senior Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee ridiculed the opposition to the relocation as elitism and knee-jerk obstructionism of President Trump.
Secret sites are on USDA’s short list for new homes of relocated agencies
The finalists in Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue's plan to move two research agencies out of Washington include "multiple" undisclosed sites in Indiana, a symbol of complaints of hidden motives and scanty material to support the move. Separately, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, a perennial USDA research partner, said it feared relocation would damage the effectiveness of the grant-making National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA).