Wendy Murphy, of Wallace NC, is a former teacher and chairwoman of the UNC Wilmington Board of Trustees, where she began her tenure in 2005. There is a distinguished professorship in the name of Wendy and Dell Murphy at UNCW. She is also a board member of Duplin General Hospital. Murphy was elected to the BOG in 2017 and is chair of the personnel and tenure committee. Murphy and her husband, Wendell “Dell” Murphy, Jr., are major donors to political candidates in North Carolina.
Wendy Murphy is connected to the hog industry through her marriage to Dell Murphy whose father, Wendell H. Murphy, started Murphy Family Farms. At one point Murphy Family Farms was the nation’s largest hog producer. Dell Murphy is a major Republican donor and the couple has hosted fundraisers for Republican candidates at their multi million dollar home in Duplin County.
Known as a “pork industry kingpin,” Wendell H. Murphy created the “Murphy model” of industrialized hog farming that coordinates all elements of pork production “from birth to slaughter to packaging.” Other farmers in eastern North Carolina and the nation later adopted the system. By 1997 the expansion of the “Murphy model” of hog production had pushed out most smaller farms and forced individual farmers to produce the pigs on contract with Murphy Family Farms. Moreover, Murphy, who also served as a state senator, helped push legislation that benefitted “high density hog farms” and used his political influence to keep counties from zoning livestock operations. Murphy became a billionaire in the late nineties before he sold the business to now Chinese-owned Smithfield Foods in 2000 under the subsidiary Murphy-Brown. Overall, Wendell Murphy transformed the pork industry in North Carolina into a major economic driver as well as a political force at the state level in the form of the NC Pork Council.
However, the legacy of Murphy’s tactics has come under deep environmental scrutiny. Concerns about environmental sustainability reached an apex when nearby residents of Duplin county farms sued for damages from the environmental pollution of hog farming harming their quality of life, particularly odors and water quality. About 500 rural neighbors of massive hog farms said that clouds of flies and intense smells remained a problem, and took Smithfield Foods/Murphy-Brown to court.
However, the Republican-controlled legislature retaliated. In the midst of the hog nuisance lawsuits, Republican legislators sponsored H467, which was written in 2017 to aid Smithfield in the 26 lawsuits that were pending against the company. The bill limited the damages that could be awarded to a property owner to no more than the actual market value of the property. Furthermore, Republicans introduced additional legislation that would hide records on hog farms kept by soil and water conservation district.
After Smithfield lost in court, legislators rushed to defend the corporate giant through the slogan “NC Farm Families First.” Many of these legislators received donations from Smithfield’s PAC and supported the legislation that limited the ability of citizens to hold big agricultural companies accountable for pollution. NC Farm Families, which poses as a grassroots group, is headquartered at Smithfield’s Corporate Hog Production Division. Meanwhile, China uses North Carolina as a place to dump waste and lease hogs to families at impossible rates. Families who once leased hogs from Murphy-Brown now lease them from a Chinese corporation, WH Group, which purchased Smithfield in 2013 and now owns Murphy-Brown.
Wendy Murphy is involved in the “hospitality segment” of Murphy Family Ventures, a management company for the family business formed in 2004. The hospitality segment includes River Landing, an upscale golf community near Wallace NC that came under fire because of an $830,000 earmark in the state budget to fix a sewage problem. Specifically, sewage from the development was spilling out of pumping stations and into nearby ponds. While the Murphys were trying to work it out with the town of Wallace, state Rep Jimmy Dixon, a longtime beneficiary of Murphy family campaign contributions, volunteered state money to fix the problem.
On the BOG, Wendy Murphy allowed Margaret Spellings’ recommendation for WCU chancellor to be overturned and was one of the members chosen for the Silent Sam task force.