There once was a time when The News & Observer had its finger on the pulse of eastern North Carolina – back when newspapers had large, bustling staffs with reporters who closely covered the agriculture industry and wrote about the latest happenings in places like Goldsboro and Mount Olive.The newspaper and its staff have since shrunk, and The News & Observer has lost touch with eastern North Carolina. That was evident when The N&O published an editorial last week lamenting the impact of hog farms.As most people who live in eastern North Carolina understand, hog farms have a positive economic impact on our communities. In the state’s two largest hog producing counties, Sampson and Duplin, the growth in median wages and annual income have outpaced state averages over the past 10 years.People are not shying away from these communities. The population has increased sharply over the past 25 years. That growth is driven in part by the success of our hog farmers, and new housing developments and businesses are popping up near long-established farms.Here is one example from Onslow County. These photos show how the area grew from 1998 to today, with new homes and a new church spouting up beside an existing hog farm.There are countless other examples just like that in small towns across our state.The pork industry is boosting our economy across eastern North Carolina — not harming it. It provides valuable jobs and serves as an important economic engine that helps rural communities survive and thrive.The N&O has been losing circulation in eastern North Carolina for a long time. Now it's losing touch, too.