Chicken Little and the Waterkeeper

An acorn must have fallen on the head of Waterkeeper Dana Sargent during Hurricane Florence. Because ever since the storm first began approaching North Carolina in September, the Waterkeepers have been running around screaming that the sky is falling!

Or, in their words, North Carolina’s family farmers are destroying our environment with toxic waste.

When an acorn landed on the head of Chicken Little, she famously incited a panic. As one telling puts it, “she disturbed a whole neighborhood by her foolish alarm.”

That sounds familiar.

The Waterkeepers would like you to believe that every lagoon in eastern North Carolina is overflowing with hog manure. In a recent column in The News & Observer, Sargent and the Waterkeepers said that “hog waste literally blanketed huge parts of the state and fouled our drinking water” during Hurricane Florence.

And The News & Observer editors didn’t think twice about publishing such nonsense.

Perhaps they need a refresher on the moral of the Chicken Little story: Don’t believe everything you hear.

After all, this isn’t the first time the Waterkeepers have made blatantly false claims about the impact of Hurricane Florence. Right after the storm, they proclaimed there was “insanely toxic” contamination found near Duke Energy’s coal ash ponds in Wilmington.“

Hurricane Florence Unleashes Toxic Coal Ash,” blared Earthjustice. And The News & Observer duly reported the news: Environmentalists say Cape Fear ‘insanely toxic’, repeating the Waterkeeper’s claims that arsenic levels were 71 times higher than the state safety standard for water quality.

What happened next? The state’s Department of Environmental Quality had to set the record straight, explaining that flooding from Hurricane Florence “did not contaminate the Cape Fear River,” as The N&O reported.

DEQ Secretary Michael Regan had to do the exact same thing in response to concerns about hog lagoons during the flood.

“We are really focused on our wastewater treatment facilities because there are probably orders of magnitude more human waste that has escaped these wastewater treatment facilities than what has escaped these hog lagoons,” he said.

Yet, the Waterkeepers continue to ignore the facts and continue to make the same false claims against our family farmers.Here are two relevant facts from Hurricane Florence that aren’t in dispute:

  1. Despite eight trillion gallons of rain and the record-shattering floods that followed, more than 98% of North Carolina’s lagoons worked exactly as intended and suffered no significant impact from Hurricane Florence.

  2. Municipal wastewater treatment plants spilled tens of millions of gallons of human waste into our rivers, creeks and stream when they were overwhelmed by the floodwaters. And human waste poses significantly higher risks than animal waste (thus the concerns shared by the state’s top environmental official).

The Waterkeepers have no credibility left. They keep screaming that the “sky is falling!” and the facts keep proving them wrong.

Years ago, another activist group issued a report claiming that the Neuse and Cape Fear rivers were among the ten most endangered rivers in America. The N&O prominently posted that story, too. American Rivers, the group behind the report, later admitted that “the rankings aren’t a scientific assessment of river quality,” but part of a coordinated effort being pushed by the Waterkeepers to influence state lawmakers.

That’s three times they have yelled “the sky is falling!” — and three times they’ve been proven wrong by the facts. How can anyone still believe their claims are credible?The next time a newspaper editor hears a Waterkeeper blasting North Carolina farmers, they should exercise tremendous caution — and ask if an acorn recently fell on their head.

Our Story: The Farmer's Side of Hurricane Florence

There have been articles, news reports, and don’t forget the countless social media posts that focus around Hurricane Florence. Beyond the many memes about bread and milk flying off the shelves, and heart-breaking reports of devastation the storm brought, there were a great deal of stories spread about farmers. Unfortunately, the story that was told was often neither positive nor accurate.So, here is the story of the farmer. This is a timeline of events from Sept 7-present day told by farmers. This is our story.Sept 7—North Carolina declares state of emergency in anticipation of Hurricane FlorenceGovernor Cooper waived transportation restrictions for farmers to allow them to harvest more quickly.Sept 8—News Reports of Hurricane Florence making landfall in NC increase.Farmers continue to work daily in the field. They begin to pickup the pace in harvest and keep a constant eye on the weather. Hog farmers continue to manage lagoons just as they have the rest of the year. 20,000 pigs in high-risk areas are moved to higher ground.Sept 11—Florence is a Category 4 and is expected to make landfall by Thursday morning.Farmers and friends come together to help get corn crops in before rain and wind destroy the crops. They work well into darkness. After all, a farmer’s work doesn’t end when the sun goes down. It ends when the job is done.madisenSept 12—The storm has weakened but is still expected to cause serious damage and has now shifted south.Harvest continues across the state. For many it will be the last day they can get any crops in. Many farmers don’t have time to stop and eat, so it’s meals on trucks, tractors and combines.lorenda cTruckers are delivering feed to farms, and farmers and lineman alike are preparing for Florence.chadGenerators are getting primed and anything loose is getting tied down.tutherring tSept 13—Rains begin to fall. Coastal cities begin to see flooding and wind damage. Florence is here.Any and all harvest comes to a stop as rain begins to fall. Taking care of animals continues as usual. The goal is to keep them comfortable and oblivious to any storm outside.loSept 14—Florence camps out over NC, moving only 2mph. Severe flooding starts and at least 5 people have already died. Rain continues to fall.Farmers continue to monitor and care for their animals. Wind has started to cause some damage, but on the whole, all is holding ridwilsonSept 15—Florence continues to pummel NC. Death tolls rise as well as flooding. Water rescues are prevalent in the eastern part of the state. Farmers are feeling the impact of the storm. Lagoons are filling, but are contained. Some are struggling with equipment malfunction or storm damage. Many are without power and even having personal issues with their own home.quotemarRoads begin to flood and washout. Despite road conditions, farmers still brave weather and roads to care for their animals.comboMany farmers make the choice to just stay at the farm with their animals. It is their home away from home for a few days.edwardsarcherFor some, their choice to stay would trap them.hairrSept 16—Rain continues. Some areas have received more than 30 inches of rain. Flooding has reached historic levels.Communities across the Carolinas are praying for the rain to stop. Many roads are impassable, making it difficult or impossible to reach farms by vehicle. Farmers do whatever it takes to care for their animals and farm.cowsmerrickstrickMany farmers are also first-responders. Their duties leave them exhausted, but their compassion and heart pushes them onward.firstSept 17—The sun shines on NC, but rivers are expected to crest in the coming days.Nothing has changed for farmers, except that water is coming from the rivers instead of sky. It is all boots on the ground (and in the sky) to get to farms and start fixing damages.wesThe farmers at this farm in Trenton, NC had a long several days. They did not go home for days, but stayed at the farm. They are keeping the pigs fed and watered. People have come to help. Water has risen to unprecedented heights.cox45`I40Sept 18—Rivers continue to rise cutting towns off. It is a grim and hard time in NC. Flood waters are rising to historic levels. Farmers are working day and night. Many have lost their homes, but continue to care for their farms.cavhelldebSept 19-Present—Disaster in NC is ongoing. People are still in danger, and floodwaters are still risingFarmers continue to work to care for their animals, battle generators, and manage lagoons. They are tired. Tears have been shed, some pigs have died, some lagoons have spilled, and some homes have been lost, but hope is ever present with farmers. They continue to fight.ttankThere is also a sense of pride among farmers. Proud of each other for what they have endured and continue to endure. Despite historic floods, torrential rain, and long days, farmers continue. They aren’t just proud of each other, though. There are many others proud of these men and women too.jacksonsargentUntitled-2-RecoveredToday, you can find farmers at their farms, in their communities, or cleaning up their own homes. If you drive through farm country, you may still have to dodge washed out roads. You may see drowned crops. There may be a person’s house turned inside out with all their belongings in the yard. Things are hardly back to normal.soybeansMedia, activists, and others will tell a horror story where Hurricane Florence and farmers are the villains and the public and animals the victims. The past few weeks have indeed been a horror story, but farmers should also be classified as victims. They have endured unimaginable events and faced so much loss.Farmers can also be deemed heroes of the story. They put their animals and others above themselves. They worked hard and even risked their health and lives during the storm. They saved animals. They saved people. They saved the day in some situations.marlowe vDespite the stories being told, farmers do care. They prepared. They fought. They stayed. This is their story…the true story. It is the story of the farmer and it deserves to be told. 

Farmers' Hard Work Pays Off--Almost 99% of Lagoons Held During Hurricane Florence

As of today, the reports show 46 out of 3,300 lagoons sustained structural damages, inundations from floods or overtopping (from too much rain) due to Hurricane Florence. 46 out of 3,300 – that’s not perfect but, still, given the size of the hurricane, it’s good news.  If you do the math, that means 98.6% of lagoons held up to the storm. That didn’t just happen. It was the result of a lot of hard work, and preparation for the hurricane, by farmers.But unfortunately good news doesn’t sell newspapers. And the News and Observer’s stories about how hog farms fared during the hurricane sure didn’t read like good news. Take the first line of one story: “The number of hog lagoons in the state that are overflowing and spilling is double the amount counted Monday afternoon…”Doubled? That sounded terrible. But, of course, the News and Observer was only reporting the bad news. It didn’t mention the thousands of lagoons that were holding up fine.Right above that story, the News and Observer, published a photo of a flooded farm and a headline: More NC hog lagoons are breached and overflowing as Florence flood waters rise. More catastrophe. More warnings of doom.Bad news sells newspapers. The News and Observer reported the threats. But ignored the bigger part of the picture where farmers’ hard work paid off.Photo by Alec Linton Hog farm in Wayne County after the storm.