A new report is outlining the explosive growth of poultry in the state, claiming there are now twice as many large-scale poultry farms as swine operations.

The study from the Environmental Working Group and the Waterkeeper Alliance finds that although the state implemented a moratorium on new swine operations in 1997, the number of birds has tripled since then – from 147 million to more than 515 million today.

They used satellite data, information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and conducted site visits to gather the information. Researchers identified more than 4,700 poultry and about 2,100 swine concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs.

The groups are concerned about pollution from what's called dry litter poultry waste. It's often spread in fields as a fertilizer and can end up in waterways. Environmentalists say too much can cause toxic algae blooms that kill fish and other marine life, and contaminate drinking water.

Will Hendrick with the Waterkeeper Alliance says unlike wet waste from hogs, dry litter poultry operations aren't required to seek a permit from the state.

“What the report depicts is the growth of this industry essentially unchecked over time,” says Hendrick. And so, the hope is that this report will help elected officials and appointed officials in Raleigh see what other North Carolinians including their constituents see in their communities.”

Poultry is the number one agricultural industry in North Carolina, with an estimated economic impact of more than $36 billion statewide.

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality is currently reviewing standards for managing hog waste, cattle and wet poultry. Two public meetings will take place this month to gather input for those general permits.

*Follow WFDD's Keri Brown on Twitter @kerib_news

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