(Adds Tyson closure, Army Corps dam management, comments from
By Theopolis Waters and Tom Polansek
CHICAGO Oct 7 Smithfield Foods Inc
will shutter a North Carolina hog processing facility, the
world's largest, on Saturday to protect employees from Hurricane
Matthew, a supplier said, as farmers braced for the storm's
On Friday, Tyson Foods Inc, the biggest U.S. meat
processor, closed a plant in Jacksonville, Florida, as Matthew
hit the state with howling winds. The facility will remain shut
on Saturday, company spokeswoman Caroline Ahn said.
Matthew has fueled concerns about the safety of livestock
and farm workers along the coast from Florida through Georgia
and into North Carolina and South Carolina. It is the fiercest
cyclone to affect the United States since Superstorm Sandy hit
the Northeast four years ago.
Smithfield, the world's largest pork processor and hog
producer, declined to comment on operations at its plant in Tar
Heel, North Carolina. Farmers deliver hogs to the plant, where
they are processed into pork chops and bacon.
John Prestage, whose family owns North Carolina-based
Prestage Farms, which is contracted to sell hogs to Smithfield,
said Smithfield cancelled Saturday's slaughter. He said he
expected processing to resume on Monday.
Shutting the Smithfield plant could mean farmers who deliver
hogs there will be paid less because the closure will create a
backlog of the animals in the region, said Steve Meyer, pork
analyst at Indiana-based EMI Analytics.
The plant has a daily slaughter capacity of 32,500 hogs,
according to National Hog Farmer magazine.
Separately, environmentalists said they were concerned
Matthew could lead to spillages of hog waste held in pits on
farms or to farmers improperly spraying manure on wet fields,
where it could run off into waterways.
Ahead of Matthew's arrival, Smithfield, owned by China's WH
Group Ltd, has been lowering hog waste levels as
needed in pits on its farms, company spokeswoman Keira Lombardo
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Wilmington, North
Carolina, district reduced water releases from two dams on the
Cape Fear and Neuse rivers ahead of the storm, said water
management chief Tony Young. The goal was to avoid adding to
expected downriver flooding problems nearer to the coast.
In 1999, a deluge from Hurricane Floyd "created an
environmental and public health crisis" for coastal North
Carolina as the open-air pits full of waste spilled into
waterways, according to the Environmental Working Group, a
nonprofit research organization.
Deborah Johnson, chief executive of the North Carolina Pork
Council, which promotes the hog sector, said producers would
follow rules that require excess space in waste pits to avoid
overflows. She also said they would not improperly spray waste
Still, about seven people affiliated with Waterkeeper
Alliance, an environmental group, spent hours driving around
eastern North Carolina on Friday searching for farmers spraying
fields with hog waste during a flood watch, a violation of state
Members of the group, known as "riverkeepers," typically
like to conduct their checks from airplanes because it is easier
to spot violations, said Rick Dove, a senior adviser to the
alliance. Cloudy weather kept them grounded.
(Additional reporting by Karl Plume and Heiwon Shin in Chicago;
Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Matthew Lewis)