Paid for opinion: North Carolina farmers under out-of-state attack

By Jack Hubbard

Raleigh, NC – Agriculture is the top industry in North Carolina, contributing over $100 billion to the economy. North Carolina is the top poultry & egg producer and number two in pork and turkey. 

But this achievement has placed a large target on the state. North Carolina farmers are facing enormous pressure from out-of-state groups that view their success as something to be stopped. 

This year, local papers across the state have published articles critical of North Carolina on environmental grounds. 

“Does NC need new rules for poultry farms? That question divides lawmakers,” read a Charlotte Observer headline in December.

“With little oversight, NC poultry farms raise 1 billion birds a year. Who pays the cost?” read another.

“EPA reviewing much-criticized water pollution rules for industrial-sized CAFO farms,” read a third piece, this one in the Raleigh News & Observer.

“These neighbors kept a poultry farm from moving in. In NC, they’re the exception,” declares a fourth. 

Why the sudden interest in throwing shade at North Carolina agriculture? It turns out these news stories are anything but grassroots. They’re being paid for by a group with an environmentalist agenda. 

The newspaper reporters are being funded by a group called the 1Earth Fund, in partnership with the California-based Journalism Funding Partners. 1Earth runs a program called the Climate Reporting Masterclass, which trains journalists how to write about climate change. 

The Fund “provides philanthropic funding to climate change communication and education projects that can reach beyond the choir and change public opinion,” it says.

It’s a clear conflict of interest to have supposedly unbiased reporting being funded by a third-party advocacy group that is explicitly trying to change opinion. Imagine the outcry if gun violence reporting was being funded by the NRA. 

Journalism Funding Partners says it has recruited multiple media outlets in North Carolina to join this paid-for journalism scheme including the  Winston Salem-Journal, Raleigh News-Observer, Charlotte Observer, and WRAL. 

My organization has been able to identify more than 140 articles funded in this scheme. 

While this pressure is being mounted publicly in the press, more pressure is being placed on North Carolina farmers behind the scenes. 

In April, the Vermont Law School, a private law school full of radical environmental and animal rights attorneys, filed a civil rights complaint with the EPA against North Carolina state regulators. The complaint alleges that the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality fails to “adequately” regulate chicken farmers, and this “discriminates” against Blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans. 

Why would a law school in Vermont be stirring the pot in North Carolina? 

The school’s environmental clinic, which brought the complaint, used to be run by Marianne Engelman-Lado. She is now the acting head of the EPA’s newly launched Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights — the division handling the complaint. The division held its launch event in North Carolina when it formed last fall. 

Engelman-Lado also previously worked for Earthjustice, a radical environmental law group that outrageously claims, “Our Nation’s Food System is a Top Polluter.” 

Along with the media and lawyers, North Carolina farmers are also facing a goon squad of animal rights extremists looking to disrupt their operations. 

North Carolina farmers have been targeted by the California-based Direct Action Everywhere, which advocates breaking into farms and stealing animals. (Which they call “rescuing.”) 

A leader of Direct Action Everywhere stole a goat from a farm near Asheville, and is appealing his conviction. If he’s successful — the group has been acquitted of similar crimes in Utah and California — they’ll be emboldened to steal more. 

Meanwhile, other animal liberation extremists have been staging protests near Raleigh against food companies. These protests are designed to put pressure on restaurants and supermarkets to demand the farmers who supply them use different practices. 

Just like with the environmental “journalism” above, these protests are paid for by out-of-state special interests. In this case, a California foundation called the Open Philanthropy Project has directed more than $50 million since 2021 to fund corporate pressure campaigns by anti-meat groups. 

While farmers may be the targets of these protests, American families are caught in the crossfire. The demanded changes in production would mean skyrocketing prices for staples like meat and eggs, making it even harder for low-income families to make ends meet. Animal rights activists bemoan the morality of large-scale farming and the fate of farm animals but do not extend the same courtesy to the fate of Americans struggling to feed their children, thanks to these elitist policies. 

Whether they are motivated by animal liberation ideology or the belief that climate change will doom us all (despite years of failed predictions), there are groups that want to end modern large-scale farming as we know it. But how do you get from A to Z and create radical transformation? The subversive activities being aimed at North Carolina agriculture provide a blueprint.

Jack Hubbard is the executive director of the Center for the Environment and Welfare and a graduate of Davidson College.