Smithfield - Romania
- But Smithfield’s global approach is clear; its chairman, Joseph Luter III, has described it as moving in a “very, very big way, very, very fast.” In less than five years, Smithfield enlisted politicians in Poland and Romania, tapped into hefty European Union farm subsidies and fended off local opposition groups to create a conglomerate of feed mills, slaughterhouses and climate-controlled barns housing thousands of hogs;
- It moved with such speed that sometimes it failed to secure environmental permits or inform the authorities about pig deaths - lapses that emerged after swine fever swept through three Romanian hog compounds in 2007, two of which were operating without permits. Some 67,000 hogs died or were destroyed, with infected and healthy pigs shot to stanch the spread;
- When it first arrived in Eastern Europe, Smithfield courted top politicians in both Poland and Romania, the latter a particularly poor country of 23 million with a weak government and under constant E.U. pressure over corruption. (...) In Bucharest, Smithfield turned to Nicholas Taubman, a wealthy Republican businessman who was the U.S. ambassador to Romania during the administration of President George W. Bush. Mr. Taubman escorted Smithfield’s top executives during meetings with the Romanian president and prime minister and president. “I’m from Virginia and they’re a large corporation and I know them very well,” Mr. Taubman said, noting that he had also helped Ford Motor, which had an easier time in Romania because it had the support of a government minister;
- Smithfield’s lobbyist, the Virginia firm McGuireWoods, set up a Bucharest office in 2007 to liaise between Smithfield and the Romanian government. In many ways McGuireWoods was the perfect choice; it had also represented Romania for three years to press its NATO-membership campaign;
- Smithfield farms in Romania’s Timis County are among the top sources of air and soil pollution, according to a local government report, which ranked the company’s individual farms No. 13 through No. 40. The report also indicates that methane gases in the air rose 65 percent between 2002 and 2007;
- When it came to cleanup, Smithfield again turned to special E.U. subsidies, requesting $11.5 million in compensation. But the local authorities — those with the power to dole out the money — balked at the demand, outraged that the epidemic was taking place on unlicensed farms which they accused of lax biosecurity measures.
- The connections in the upper reaches of government meant that Smithfield could weather protests from local communities. The company was fined €9,000 for spilling manure on a local highway while transporting waste from a leaking container; €35,000 for a leaking bin that seeped hog waste into soil; another €35,000 for four farms operating without permits in Arad County; and €18,500 for not preventing water pollution;
- Smithfield found it hard to overcome fallout from the swine fever outbreak that struck Cenei. At the time, hog corpses lay in heaps, and residents remember chaotic efforts to shoot and burn them. That particular strain affects only hogs, but scientists have found elements of swine viruses — one from Europe or Asia, the other from North America — in the genetic code of the new influenza A(H1N1) virus;
In many ways, the Tar Heel plant -- which can process up to 32,000 hogs a day -- is an efficient killing machine. Squealing hogs funnel into an area where they are electrocuted, stabbed in the jugular, then tied, lifted and carried on a winding journey through the plant. They are dunked in scalding water, their hair is removed, they are run through a fiery furnace (to burn off residual hair), then disemboweled and sliced by an army of young, often immigrant, laborers.
In the largest water pollution fine ever imposed by the Government, one of the biggest pork companies on the East Coast was fined $12.6 million today for dumping hog waste into a tributary of Chesapeake Bay.
The ruling resulted from a lawsuit by the Environmental Protection Agency, which accused Smithfield of polluting the Pagan River and destroying documents to cover it up.