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NC spent $11M-plus to compost dead poultry post-Florence

November 14, 2018
Florence flooding
Florence flooding

Taxpayers spent at least $11 million to dispose of poultry killed by the flooding after Hurricane Florence, state agriculture officials said Tuesday.

And that’s way below budget. Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration initially estimated the cost of these mass livestock disposals at $20 million.

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler put the total cost between $11 million and $13 million, primarily for sawdust, during a presentation to state legislators. That’s what it took to dispose of more than 4 million dead birds left on farms after the storm, he said.

The sawdust is mixed in with the carcasses, and the state was lucky to find supplies in North and South Carolina, Troxler said. Without the South Carolina sawdust in particular, “this could have been held up for a long, long time,” he said.

Rep. Jimmy Dixon, who co-chaired the committee that heard Troxler’s report, called the figure “astonishing.” He asked whether the state could stockpile sawdust or pre-bid the job to cut costs the next time eastern North Carolina sees heavy flooding.

“I realize that we’re between a rock and a hard place,” said Dixon, R-Duplin.

Troxler said stockpiling sawdust would be difficult. It would have to be stored indoors to keep it dry, and when it’s needed, it’s needed quickly. The state also had to go by Federal Emergency Management Agency rules, he said.

If the state had bid the project out, disposal would probably be just starting instead of being done already, Troxler said. All that’s left to do now is monitor the temperature of the compost piles, he said.

The job was split between three contractors, according to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, along with a number of subcontractors.

Transporting the sawdust was a major cost, and trucks came from as far away as Oklahoma, the department said.

The state expects most of its costs to be reimbursed by the federal government, Troxler said.

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