The North Carolina Pork Council (NCPC) supports passage of the recently approved Senate Bill 1465, Swine Farm Performance Standards, which places a permanent ban on construction of new swine lagoons.

The bill, signed by Gov. Mike Easley, supercedes the state’s nearly 10-year-old building moratorium, and puts in place permanent performance standards for new or expanding hog farms, explains Tommy Stevens, environmental affairs director for the NCPC.

“We accept the performance standards for new and expanding farms as set forth in the bill, and we will continue to be supportive of the research and development of alternative waste treatment technologies that are economically feasible options for our farmers,” says Deborah Johnson, CEO of the NCPC.

The bill provides that existing operations meeting current permitting rules can continue to operate lagoon and sprayfield manure management technologies.

The last part of the legislation incorporates the Methane Capture Pilot Program. Under that effort, up to 50 farms can participate in a pilot program in which methane from animal waste could be captured, electricity generated on the farm and then sold back to the utility companies at a price not to exceed 18 cents/kwh. Actual price would be negotiated between the state utility commission, the utility company and the party or farm the site is located on.

A cost-sharing program will be available to farmers to convert to the new technologies, with the state covering 90% of the cost up to $500,000 for each applicant over the next five years. The state share will be 80% in 2012 and 75% in 2017.

The state legislation was a compromise of many, many meetings and a lot of time negotiating through this whole process, says Stevens. The new law basically places the same restraints on hog industry growth as the moratorium, except that this time the requirements are permanent.

A provision in the legislation covers producers’ lagoons that are in imminent danger of structural failure. Producers would be permitted to replace their lagoons if problems couldn’t be resolved by other means.

“That was something that we wanted and obviously the environmental community did not,” says Stevens.