Fifth round of buyouts offered

RALEIGH — The N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services has partnered with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to continue its program to purchase permanent conservation easements on swine operations within the 100-year floodplain.

This will be the fifth time the state has offered this program which began in 2000 following devastating flooding from Hurricane Floyd. The program offers an opportunity for swine production operations with a high risk of flooding to convert to other forms of agriculture more compatible with floodplain locations.

A total of 42 swine operations from the 100-year floodplain were bought out using funds from four Clean Water Management Trust Fund grants totaling $18.7 million. Buyout for one final operation in Phase IV is ongoing. Of the 42 operations previously bought out, 34 likely would have flooded again in Hurricane Matthew.

“This is a voluntary option for swine producers in the 100-year floodplain that will enable them to reinvest in their farming operations to convert to other agricultural enterprises more compatible with flood-prone locations,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “This program is a successful approach to reducing the number of swine operations at risk of flooding in future storm events and gives farmers options. The swine buyout program has enjoyed great support from the industry, environmental interests and members of the General Assembly.”

To qualify for the voluntary buyout, the hog farms must be in the 100-year floodplain and must have been in operation on Oct. 8, 2016, or must have resumed operation between Oct. 8, 2016 ,and Sept. 14, 2018.

The Division of Soil and Water Conservation has mailed a solicitation for swine producers to submit bids to be considered for the program. The Division will rank the offers received to maximize the total water quality benefits associated with the use of these funds. Bids from eligible producers must be postmarked by Nov. 30.

Parameters used to rank the offers will include the offered price of the easement relative to the size of the operation, susceptibility to and history of flooding, structural integrity of the lagoon, and downstream water uses. Offers providing the greatest overall value for the money being expended will be selected as finalists for acceptance into the program. Participating swine producers must agree to restore buffers on streams and ditches and to accept a conservation easement on the site that prohibits use of the site for concentrated livestock production or non-agricultural development.

The Division of Soil and Water Conservation and the N.C. Pork Council will co-sponsor question and answer sessions on the following dates and locations to allow interested producers to learn more about the program: Kenansville on Oct. 25, 6-8:30 p.m. at the Duplin County Agriculture Center; Fayetteville on Nov. 7, noon to 2:30 p.m. at the Cumberland County Agriculture Center; Williamston on Nov. 8, 6-8:30 p.m. Martin County USDA Service Center; and New Bern on Nov. 13, noon to 2:30 p.m.at the Craven County Agricultural Center.