Florence Engulfs Hog Farms And Chicken Houses, Thrashing North Carolina Agriculture : The Salt At least 1.7 million chickens have died from flooding in the state. The impact is now coming into focus — including overflowing pools of hog manure and waterlogged sweet potato fields.
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Florence Engulfs Hog Farms And Chicken Houses, Thrashing North Carolina Agriculture

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Florence Engulfs Hog Farms And Chicken Houses, Thrashing North Carolina Agriculture

Florence Engulfs Hog Farms And Chicken Houses, Thrashing North Carolina Agriculture

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

In North Carolina, most of the rain has ended, but flooding continues. Much of the area where Florence dumped the most rainfall is covered with farms - chicken farms, sweet potato farms, hog farms - and the damage to those farms is just starting to come into focus.

Joining us to talk more is NPR's Dan Charles. Welcome to the studio.

DAN CHARLES, BYLINE: Good to be here.

CORNISH: So before Florence hit, you reported a lot about people who were worried about what would happen to the ponds that are on hog farms because they're filled with manure. What have you learned so far?

CHARLES: Well, the numbers are just starting to come in reported from farmers. And they're coming to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. The latest numbers today are that four of those lagoons - the walls have failed. The contents have escaped into nearby rivers. Nine more were just flooded, inundated by rising floodwaters. Another dozen or so, they just got so much rain that they overflowed.

Now, the North Carolina Pork Council - it's an industry group - they say this is not a widespread problem. They say this is isolated. Numbers of lagoons and the majority are fine. But those numbers are still going to go up. They're double what they were yesterday. And a bunch of environmental groups have been flying overhead, looking down. And they say from what they see, that number certainly will grow.

CORNISH: What about the animals and livestock?

CHARLES: There was an effort at least with the hogs to get them out of any low-lying houses. We have not yet heard what has happened to the hogs. Years ago, Hurricane Floyd - there were thousands of hogs that died in a flood like this. But on the other side, you know, there's not just hog farms. There's chicken farms. And a big poultry producer, Sanderson Farms - they reported last evening that 60 chicken houses were flooded. 1.7 million birds were killed. Another whole bunch of farms has been cut off by floodwaters, and so they can't get feed trucks into those houses. So, you know, that story's not yet over either.

CORNISH: In the meantime, what are people thinking that the long-term effects will be?

CHARLES: Well, obviously for the farmers whose land was flooded and whose buildings were destroyed this is, you know, a catastrophe. For a company like Sanderson Farms it's going to be a hit, but they will survive. I don't think consumers will see that much of an impact because it's a small part of, you know, the country's production. But think about sweet potatoes. North Carolina grows half of the country's sweet potatoes. Harvest was just beginning. They can't get back into the fields, but they need to because if sweet potatoes stay in a waterlogged field for too long, they could rot, and that might have an impact on your Thanksgiving dinner.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Dan Charles. Dan, thank you.

CHARLES: Thank you.

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