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State lawmakers rally for local hog farms in Duplin County

The leaders came to a farm in Duplin County to offer a public response to a jury awarding those living near hog farms $50 million in damages. (Nate Belt, NewsChannel 12 photo)

Several of North Carolina's leaders came to the defense of hog farms in Duplin County on Tuesday.

"All the stories you've heard about environmental disasters associated with the hog industry of North Carolina are just not true," said N.C. Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler.

The leaders came to a farm in Duplin County to offer a public response to a jury awarding those living near hog farms $50 million in damages.

"We have big money out-of-state trial lawyers coming in and generating plaintiffs around your farms and around your community so that they can come in and sue you," said. Lt. Gov. Dan Forrest. "So they put you out of business and they make millions of dollars doing it."

A jury ruled more than 500 neighbors of large-scale hog farms who they said have suffered unreasonable nuisances tied to the farms. Smithfield Foods, the company contracted with the hog farms, is the largest pork producer in the world. It is know for its open-pit waste handling methods.

4th District Rep. Jimmy Dixon said this was never a problem for the neighbors until lawyers came into play, claiming they recruited plaintiffs.

"The pretty car rolled up in the yard and said 'ain't you tired of the flies?'" Dixon said. "'Well no, we've lived here all our lives. Well you know what we might get you $75,000 if you'd be willing to sign onto this lawsuit.' Wow, suddenly the flies got worse, the odor got worse, and they signed the dotted line."

Dixon also said the lawsuit is unfair because the farms are judged by jury members who don't understand the industry.

NewsChannel 12's Greg Payne was allowed the chance to get a rare look at one of these hog farms in Duplin County on Tuesday. Payne went to Albertson to see how Morris Murphy's Triple M Farm operates.

"My father grew up on a farm as a share cropper, had it in his blood but he had a dream and so I'm fulfilling that dream," Murphy said.

It's a dream that includes 1,500 acres in Duplin County to grow tobacco, corn, cotton, soybeans and hogs. According to NCFarmFamilies.com, the pork industry employs more than 46,000 people, making our state the nation's second leading pork producing state.

"You look at the economic impact it would have if they went out of business, not just in my pocket book but it would effect everybody," Murphy said.

That's why the recent lawsuits bring fear to many farmers, including Murphy.

"Unfortunately farms have sounds and some noise and occasional smells," Murphy said. "People don't understand what farming is really all about when you go through a grocery store. It's there, that's what you think about. You go to a grocery store and didn't find it there you might think a little differently and I hope it never comes to that."

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