SMITHFIELD, Va. — Smithfield Foods strongly denies the statements made by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) and Waterkeeper Alliance. We are fully compliant with the agreement that we reached with the Waterkeeper Alliance in U.S. Eastern District Court in 2006. We welcome the court’s review of this matter.
The SELC/Waterkeeper Alliance’s news release is falsely and unfairly attacking an industry that acts responsibly and provides jobs and a good livelihood for tens of thousands of North Carolinians. Contrary to their claims, none of the farms referenced in the press release have been shown to have caused groundwater contamination.
Under the 2006 agreement, we agreed to a risk-ranking system that evaluated whether 260 hog farms in North Carolina presented any potential groundwater risk. The system identified only 11 of the 260 farms (4.2 percent) as warranting further evaluation for potential risk.
Following that evaluation, Smithfield independently commissioned a third-party study to conduct onsite investigations and data collection at those 11 farms. The Waterkeeper Alliance instead insists that the farms undertake what it calls “corrective” steps that we believe are unnecessary and inefficient and that even pose safety risks.
This is simply a disagreement over what the agreement requires. We at Smithfield have sought to resolve the disagreement for two years. We even entered into mediation, which was unsuccessful. It will now be up to the court to resolve the matter.
We must ask whether the goal of the Waterkeeper Alliance here is to unfairly stigmatize hog farmers. These farmers work hard, spend a great deal of money and use sophisticated technology to comply with strict state and federal regulations. Hog farming is one of the most heavily regulated sectors in all agriculture. Every farm is inspected every year, and every farmer must maintain detailed records. Numerous studies have demonstrated that the Waterkeeper Alliance’s attacks on hog farms are misleading and unjustified.
Hog farmers are doing a good job, and we will continue to resist the Waterkeeper Alliance’s attacks on them.
Statement attributable to Stewart Leeth, Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and Chief Sustainability Officer, Smithfield Foods, Inc.