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.