The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on October 5, 1997 · Page 5
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 5

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Salina, Kansas
Issue Date:
Sunday, October 5, 1997
Page:
Page 5
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THE SALINA JOURNAL OP-ED SUNDAY, OCTOBER S, 1997 AB" BY GEORGE Before welcoming hog factories, we should ask for references; 8'ig-time hog operators should not be allowed escape their past A t the core of the American experience is the ability we have always had to move oft, for young men to Go West. ,'From the landing at Plymouth R£ck to the whole _ _ experience of the * West, our very character as a people: involves a HQ£e, a promise, thjit however we ifVe now, a better life" is possible if wo will just move oh, usually west. LiThe dark side of that is that it is sometimes much tfcjo easy for us to walk away from afar misdeeds and from our responsibilities. j; Every newcomer could be an Untapped talent who needs only a Ifttle fresh air to realize his full potential or a scoundrel who is hiding a dark past among a bunch of strangers who won't know any better until it is too late. f. About to drift westward into Kansas, for good or for ill, is a liUge wave, not of people, but of hogs. A new way of producing GEORGE B. PYLE Tlie Salina Jouqial * hogs, by the millions, in large operations that have great potential to cut costs, make money and foul the air, soil and water, is eyeing Kansas as its next fertile field. Some such operations have already been launched in southwest Kansas. More are in Oklahoma. But the center of the swine factory universe today is North Carolina, where the number of hogs in residence has soared from 2.3 million in 1983 to 9.5 million today. The number of hog farmers, meanwhile, has dropped from 25,000 to 7,000, as the whole approach to producing swine has changed. The biggest player in the North Carolina hog boom is Murphy Family Farms, which is now looking to expand its operation to Kansas and sponsored a meeting Wednesday in Salina to reassure us about how environmentally friendly its operation will be. If it is, then a westward move will certainly be a new start for Murphy, because the mess the operation has made back home has raised quite a stench. The Raliegh News and Observer, in a series that ran in February of 1995, outlined just how much of an environmental hazard the new style of hog production is. The reporting won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for public service and moved many in the state to finally do something about a politically powerful industry that was having its way with the people and the land of North Carolina. But, despite the alarm raised by the News and Observer, it took until just a couple of months ago for the North Carolina Legislature to pass laws strengthening that state's environmental protection and inspection, giving counties zoning authority over large hog operations and imposing a two- year moratorium on new or expanded operations. And, despite the publicity that attends the public service Pulitzer, probably the greatest prize any journal or journalist can receive, the News and Observer's work has been little noticed outside of its home state. That is wrong. We need to know what our new neighbor was like back in its old home town — polluting rivers, smelling up whole counties, blocking any governmental effort to regulate it. The people and leaders of Kansas should be more than a little concerned that Murphy, having lost much of its influence and immunity in North Carolina, could be looking to move to Kansas because we don't know enough to be afraid of it. Well, we can know. Reprints of the News and Observer's series can be had by writing to: Boss Hog reprint, P.O. Box 191, Raleigh, N.C., 27602. A single copy, according to my information, is free. More cost $5 a piece. Or, if you are on line, you can point your web browser to www.nando.net/sproject/hogs/ and read the whole sad tale of a $1.2 billion industry yourself. October 7th thnn October 11 Hi This is something we need to do now, before Murphy and its ilk get a strong economic foothold, and thus a strong political foothold, in Kansas. We might also want to consider whether we really want to become so dependent on a single industry that could be devastated by dis- ease or by a mass realization that we eat too many pigs — sweet, inoffensive creatures — already! In N.C., it took the threat of JEU huge hog operation near tttcG swanky Pinehurst Country Club to goad lawmakers into action. We must not wait for that to happen here. 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