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  • 20 Jul 2017 8:34 AM | Anonymous

    Arkansas Times


    EPA chief Pruitt in Arkansas pushing end to clean air and water rules

    Posted By Max Brantley on Thu, Jul 20, 2017 at 12:05 PM






    EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was in Little Rock today and touted his effort to loosen clean air and water rules at a meeting at the Don and Randal Tyson Conference Center at the Arkansas Poultry Federation.


    This was not a widely announced visit to the poultry lobby HQ. Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge were on hand, along with a select audience, and they posted photos of the appearance on Twitter.

    Too much publicity perhaps would have drawn some resistors to the sidewalk outside.

    On his own Twitter account, Pruitt said he was 

    In the #NaturalState talking #WOTUS w folks representing rice, pork, cattlemen, electric utilities & other vital industries  

    People who fight for clean water, no pig poop in the Buffalo River, clean air so you can see the bluffs and you're average air-breathing, water-drinking city-dwelling Arkie? They weren't specifically listed.

    Hutchinson put it this way:

    The @EPA's #StateActionTour brought @EPAScottPruitt to AR. He's now listening to AR Agriculture stakeholders' responses to the #WOTUS rule. 
    WOTUS is waters of the United States. It refers to an Obama-era rule to make clear clean water rules apply to streams and wetlands that flow into navigable streams. Poop does run down hill after all.  Farmers, particularly, howled at the extension of protection to water that makes up a big part of the country's drinking water supply. The Trump administration plans to roll things back. The Audubon Society explains. I'm guessing they weren't on the invite list either.

    Here's how Rutledge Tweeted it:

    .@EPAScottPruitt wants to give farmers and ranchers certainty in a new #WOTUS rule. Listening to ideas of Arkansas landowners today. #arpx 
    City dwellers who want certainty about their water supply? Some other time.

    Those sitting up front included Becky Keogh, director of the state's putative department of "Environmental Quality."

    PS — Don't go to fondly remembering former Democratic Attorney General Dustin McDaniel on this occasion. He touted Pruitt, former Oklahoma a.g., as a great pick to head EPA. McDaniel was a friend of air-polluting coal burners, too.

    After the event concluded, Rutledge issued a news release praising Pruitt and herself. She touted her own work to roll back the WOTUS water protection rule; to allow more pollution from coal-burning smokestacks; to fight haze and mercury rules; to oppose rules aiming to reduce smog, and other anti-regulatory efforts. Cough.

    Glen Hooks of the Arkansas chapter of the Sierra Club also commented later:

    “Arkansas is The Natural State, a place where we place a high priority on clean water. We hope that Administrator Pruitt learned today about the damage and environmental consequences that the Trump Administration’s clean water rollbacks will cause to our citizens and waterways.

    ""The Clean Water Act makes it plain that science should lead policy, not the other way around. Arkansans expect the EPA to lead the fight to protect our most precious resources. Sadly, Administrator Pruitt is taking a different approach. 

    "Since assuming office back in February, Administrator Pruitt has proposed rolling back dozens of existing environmental protections – recklessly creating new threats to the health and quality of life of Arkansas families.

    The Arkansas Sierra Club is committed to protecting our water and natural resources here in The Natural State. We will continue to strenuously oppose the Trump Administration’s environmental rollbacks at every opportunity, because our state's air and water are worth fighting for."


  • 16 Jul 2017 7:13 AM | Anonymous

    Undisputed jewel

    Buffalo's worth

    By Mike Masterson

    Posted: July 16, 2017 at 1:48 a.m


    NWAOnline


    My affection and concern for the welfare of our Buffalo National River, the first so designated in the country back in 1972, is redundantly apparent to readers.

    We have what no other state does in this natural treasure, which with benefits brings serious responsibility for its care. Other than the majesty of its towering bluffs and clear flow through the scenic mountains, the Buffalo brings so much value to our state and an otherwise economically deprived region.


    A National Park Service report released in April shows revealed we hosted 1.78 million visitors to Buffalo National River in 2016 who spent nearly $77.6 million in communities around the park. That supported 1,200 jobs in the area while generating a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $90.2 million


    The recreation and escape this God-given natural wonder provides so many Arkansans and Americans are irreplaceable should this river become fouled with raw waste from the 6,500-swine factory our state's Department of Environmental Quality (wheeze) permitted into the sacred watershed just six miles upstream and along a major tributary.


    With that in mind, I found the latest local economic impact information collected by the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance especially relevant. The analytical project is part of an examination of tourism industry in Newton County where the hog factory is located.

    Gordon Watkins, chairman of the alliance, told me, based on information from the Tourism Trust Fund managed by Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, that during calendar year 2016 tourism-related businesses in the county paid $130,120 toward the state's 2 percent Tourism Tax.


    "This equates to a remarkable amount of gross revenues generated by these Newton County tourism businesses in one of the poorest counties in Arkansas," said Watkins. "This is a significant sum, especially considering the multiplier effect, as this income is spent with and amongst other local, non-tourism businesses, such as gas stations, hardware stores, restaurants, cleaning services, carpenters, etc."

    Watkins said the primary tourist attraction in Newton County is, of course, the Buffalo National River. "So by comparison how much does one hog operation with a handful of employees contribute to Newton County?" he wonders.


    Well, the alliance website says only about a dozen jobs mostly paying at or near minimum wages are created by the factory while property values within a few miles tend to decline by an average of 6 percent. And who knows what the impact to a resource such as the Buffalo that accounts for about $38 million in revenue to Arkansas would be should the river become fouled from hog waste?


    So, my friends, you can continue to count me among the many thousands across our state who remain deeply troubled, even angry, that this wholly preventable and unnecessary state of jeopardy to our special river even exists and is even being nurtured rather than discouraged by the state.

  • 01 Jul 2017 1:15 PM | Anonymous

    Can’t pick just one

    Memorable career

    By Mike Masterson

    Posted: July 1, 2017 at 2:11 a.m.


    I was asked the other day which among a career of stories I consider most memorable.

    That proved more difficult than expected once I began to reflect across 46 years.

    For instance, there was the case of Shelby Barron, a black mason in Hot Springs, who was wrongly indicted on rape and robbery charges only to be freed after evidence proving his innocence was published.

    Beebe's Millicent Lynn was found floating in a lake near Hot Springs and the medical examiner ruled her death suicide until stories raised questions that led to her exhumation, where a bullet hole was discovered through her head.

    There also was Richard Fuller, a Cummins inmate whom the medical examiner ruled died from heart infection. Stories questioned that finding. His body was exhumed only to have a second autopsy determine death from manual strangulation.

    Afterwards, while heading the investigative team at the Arizona Republic in Phoenix, came a year-long investigation into mistreatment and corruption in federal Indian programs. That prompted U.S. Senate hearings and reforms.

    We discovered the Indian Health Service had been regularly injecting developmentally disabled women with Depo-Provera to prevent pregnancy without their knowledge or consent.

    Two years later, we published another series revealing an astounding number of nursing homes nationwide were misusing powerful anti-psychotic medications to control the behavior of many sane residents in order to cut expenses. That also led to legislative hearings and reforms.

    Young David Michel died in 1980 after suffering a head injury in a shooting incident on a Little Rock parking lot. The medical examiner initially ruled his death an accidental fall. Subsequent stories a year later in the Arkansas Democrat, however, showed the injury to the top of Michel's head was caused by a rifle butt, and a witness to the beating emerged. The revelations led to an arrest and murder conviction.

    I spent a year at the Democrat digging into the 20-year-old case of Marvin Williams, a 21-year-old black veteran who was married and employed in Conway when he died in the Faulkner County jail. Police said he'd fallen on the courthouse stairs. But an inmate said he witnessed Williams beaten to death in a cell by two white men in uniform. The resulting stories led to a special grand jury that indicted two former Conway officers on murder charges. They were later acquitted at trial.

    Ronald Carden of Bigelow had been convicted of murdering a "Jane Doe." But evidence discovered and published in a three-month investigation proved his innocence and a judge freed him.

    In Chicago, a series of investigative stories explored the deaths of more than 20 black men in police custody in two years. Those articles led to exhumations and into the medical examiner's office. Ultimately, the FBI launched an investigation and the Chicago Police Department announced sweeping new reforms in the way suspects were treated in the city's lockups. Later at the Asbury Park Press in New Jersey, another investigative series on deaths in custody prompted national legislation that required all deaths in local jails and lockups to be reported to the U.S. Justice Department.

    Also in Chicago, I discovered the state had been secretly busing developmentally disabled people from its 5,000-patient facility at Dixon, Ill., into sleazy nursing homes owned by political contributors in order to fill those homes' Medicaid-reimbursed beds. These places were ill-equipped to handle such patients' unique needs. As a result, many were dying, including Donna Sonnenberg, whose sad story led to the first criminal conviction of a Chicago nursing home owner for neglect.

    During a summer consulting at Red Bank, N.J.'s Two River Times, I wrote about three mentally ill patients being burned to death 17 years earlier in a halfway house at nearby Sea Bright. Police then reopened that cold case, which led to the arrest and arson conviction of two men 18 years later.

    While writing since 2001 as purely an opinion columnist, there was the shameful 1989 death of Marshall's Janie Ward during a teen party outside town. The medical examiner left her manner and cause of death as undetermined while acknowledging additional investigation was needed. Was it ever! A California medical examiner came to Arkansas, exhumed her body and determined her death had been a homicide from a blow to her neck and spinal cord. A special prosecutor was named and despite documented falsehoods, obstruction, gaps and contrived evidence, he took her politicized case full circle for four years back to an undetermined manner.

    I've lately been involved in writing about how our state wrongheadedly allowed a hog factory into the precious Buffalo National River watershed at Mount Judea. Yet another book.

    As you might imagine, picking the most memorable has proven impossible.

    Some good news, valued readers. I will continue to write three columns weekly (rather than two as previously announced) with one change. Saturday's offerings will be available only online beginning next week, while Sunday and Tuesday will remain in the printed version. Thanks for your support and for reading.

    ------------v------------

    Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.

    Editorial on 07/01/2017

  • 20 Jun 2017 7:11 AM | Anonymous

    Arkansasonline


    Fran Alexander: This land is whose land?

    Congress, White House look to shed federal protections

    By Fran Alexander

    Posted: June 20, 2017 


    "National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst."

    -- Wallace Stegner, 1983

    If someone would just explain to me why protecting air, water and land from pollution and erosion is a bad idea, I could just shut up and go away. However, after 50 years of trying to find a logical, reasonable explanation for the rape, pillage and plunder of the Earth and its creatures, humans included, so far the prevailing mantra I've heard for such behavior is, "jobs!"

    And, oh yes, there's also that one about man having dominion over the earth. Dominion is not the same thing as destruction, so if the gods are keeping score, we humans are in serious trouble.

    "Baloney," I say, to the jobs excuse. Those doing this damage, and the politicians they hire to make their actions legal, don't have such gushing empathy for their fellow man that they are harvesting the Earth's resources purely to employ folks. Unless people spend most of their lives with their heads in the sand or are incurably naive, surely they've noticed it's the mighty moguls of industry and conglomerations of corporations who benefit from laying waste to landscapes and once-healthy environments. Oftentimes the more rapacious among them discount human damage with as much disregard as they show for environmental damage.

    On the governmental side of things, we are not paying enough attention to what's going on in the backrooms of power. Our nation's federal lands, which include parks, wilderness areas, forests, rivers (like Arkansas' Buffalo River, the nation's first national river), monuments, seashores, ocean habitats, tribal lands, wildlife refuges, and cultural and historical sites, are in danger of being downgraded, defunded, privatized, turned over to states, and/or cashed in by those in control of Congress and the White House.

    There's a loud circus in Washington, D.C., right now distracting our focus away from more serious things. Rest assured those who have long been quietly licking their chops to extract even more public resources are busy at work. At this moment, they are probably composing yet another executive order or policy change that will remove more protections, which they demean as "regulations," out of the hands of the public and into the jaws of the highest bidders.

    Signed in April, the president's executive order titled "Review of Designations Under the Antiquities Act" is a directive to Ryan Zinke, the secretary of the Interior, to "review" federal monument designations. The integrity of this 1906 act, which gives presidents the power to protect land, will most likely be tested on Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, set up by Obama before leaving office. However, about 20 national monument lands over 100,000 acres in size could be affected if Congress or the president can find ways to rescind the current law so that they can sell, transfer or reduce these properties in size. Guess who'll be waiting for that moment with wallet in hand.

    Throughout global history there has been a life and death power struggle for resources. Private gain extraction industries (timber, oil, gas, coal, uranium, etc.), which possess tremendous political clout and endless money, are pitted against a public consisting mostly of individuals, non-profit organizations or tribes struggling to keep public lands and water sources safe and intact. Fortunately, these businesses are in direct conflict with another huge industry that provides even more jobs. Tourism, centered on our country's unique natural landscape, is a multi-billion-dollar business bringing economic lifeblood to hundreds of communities and thousands of people. But, tourism's existence depends on keeping our outdoor treasures clean, safe and original.

    Natural wonders are easily destroyed. Imagine, for example, what gas and oil fracking near Arches National Park might do to the scenery and to the delicate rock marvels in that landscape. Arctic drilling, uranium mining in the Grand Canyon's watershed, strip mining for coal, off-shore oil exploration, clear cutting of forests, pipelines across waterways, pig farms near rivers, etc. are all exploitation practices that destroy our natural world. (For more on federal land issues, read this post.)

    Woody Guthrie sang, "This land is your land, this land is my land." We must remember those words if we are to become active stewards in this custody battle over what happens to our country. Tell your congressmen and the president, " Get your hands off our land!" And mean it.

    Commentary on 06/20/2017

  • 08 Jun 2017 8:36 AM | Anonymous

    Fecal Microbes Found In Kewaunee County Wells Raise Concerns About Dairy Manure, Septic Waste


    Tests Show Waste From Cattle Contaminates Majority of Wells, Especially After Rainfall Or Snowmelt


    Coburn Dukehart

    Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

    June 8, 2017 

  • 03 Jun 2017 12:54 PM | Anonymous

    Arkansasonline


    Buffalo Baptism 

    by Mike Masterson 


    June 3, 2017

    Arkansas Democrat Gazette


    Jason Henson of Newton County told a civic club his C&H Hog Farm is operating as designed in the Buffalo National River watershed, and the Department of Environmental Quality (wheeze) makes sure it does.

    That's the state agency which in 2012 permitted the factory into the most environmentally sacred and karst-riddled region of our state.


    Speaking to Harrison's Kiwanis Club, Henson, who's the "H" in the C&H partnership with cousins Richard and Phillip Campbell, told the gathering he was baptized in the Buffalo and would never do anything intentionally to harm the country's first national river.


    I found it more than interesting that John Bailey, now with the Arkansas Farm Bureau and an avid C&H supporter, was seated alongside Henson. In his former career, you see, Bailey was the water permits manager who helped prepare the permit that allowed the factory to set up shop along Big Creek at Mount Judea.


    Reporter James L. White of the Harrison Daily Times quoted Henson saying the factory will have up to 2,500 pigs at a time. Once born, they stay for 19 days, then are sent to a finishing farm where they are prepared for slaughter.


    He also said they overdesigned the factory's retention ponds where manure goes to avoid seepage into groundwater or nearby Big Creek, a tributary of the Buffalo River.


    Henson further said C&H is permitted by the state to spread manure on hundreds of acres under strict regulation.


    For example, before being applied, the factory must analyze nutrients in manure and the fields it's being sprayed on. They spread a tenth of an inch of liquid manure on a field, which immediately begins to bond with the soil; dry chemical fertilizer must be activated by rain. "Henson said other farmers don't meet the same environmental scrutiny," the story reads. "In fact, when they first began the operation, [Department of Environmental Quality] officials were on site every 10 days to monitor the operation, and even the federal Environmental Protection Agency inspected the farm--they remarked on its cleanliness."


    Henson believes C&H will be good for the future of agriculture to show that agriculture and the environment can successfully co-exist. The story concluded by saying Henson and other farmers don't have any intention of harming the ecosystems. "We're just not going to do it," Henson said.

    I

    t's a good thing that Henson appeared publicly to give his side of this ongoing controversy that has raged ever since the Department of Environmental Quality quietly and quickly allowed it into the sacred national river watershed. The wholly unsuitable and inappropriate location for a large hog factory has always been my only concern. The abilities of Henson and his family to operate a hog factory and keep it clean have never been at question. It's also misdirection and hogwash for any special interest to insinuate otherwise. The bottom line is this corporately supported factory, licensed to accommodate some 6,500 swine, should never have been allowed here.


    Gordon Watkins, president of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, read White's story. "As a news report of a presentation to a civic club, this is understandably an oversimplification of a very complex issue, but there are some points I take issue with. It's not accurate, and minimizes the waste rates, when [Henson] says 'They will spread a tenth of an inch of liquid manure on a field.' In reality each field receives varying amounts and it's more accurate to state, as shown in their annual report, they applied 2,532,275 gallons last year."


    Watkins contends it's also misleading to say the waste, "immediately begins to bond with the soil."

    "If that were the case, the Big Creek Research and Extension Team and National Park Service would not be seeing increased nitrates, E. coli and low dissolved oxygen in Big Creek. This statement also completely ignores the presence and implications of porous karst," said Watkins.


    "I don't doubt C&H has no 'intention of harming the ecosystems around them,'" he continued. "I'm sure they did not set out to intentionally damage Big Creek and the Buffalo. I think they simply did not understand the implications of operating this scale of an industrial CAFO in this location. But [the Department of Environmental Quality] should certainly have understood and dropped the ball when they approved this permit.


    Watkins also said "the county extension agent perpetuates the fallacy that C&H and other industrial facilities like them are 'farming' and are necessary to feed the world. Most CAFO pork goes to China. Corporate supplier JBS of Brazil keeps the money, and Mount Judea and the Buffalo get stuck with the waste. Big Ag and their industrial model of CAFOs are largely responsible for the decline in small family farms."


    As for Bailey's presence to hear Henson talk about the factory he as a former Department of Environmental Quality manager was instrumental in approving, Watkins added: "Bailey helped write the original C&H permit while working for [the agency] and now works for Farm Bureau, who has made C&H their poster child. It shows the cozy relationship and revolving door between state agencies and powerful lobbyists representing special interests."


    Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.


    Commentary on 06/03/2017

  • 30 May 2017 2:25 PM | Anonymous


    Farmers protect environment for future; Hog farm co-owner addresses questions


    By JAMES L. WHITE jamesw@harrisondaily.com

    Harrison Daily Times - Harrison, Arkansas  

    Posted: Tuesday, May 30, 2017 7:00 am | Updated: 7:04 am, Tue May 30, 2017. 


    Jason Henson, co-owner of C&H Hog Farm near Mt. Judea, recently spoke to the Harrison Kiwanis Club and reminded attendees that farmers are front-line environmentalists.

    Club member Herb Lair introduced Henson, recognizing that he is a winner of the Farm Bureau Leadership Award and a ninth-generation Newton Countian. Lair said studies have shown cattle farming is actually more dangerous to the environment than hog farms.

    Henson explained that C&H will have up to 2,500 pigs at a time. Once born, they stay for 19 days, then go to a finishing farm to be prepared for slaughter and the table.

    They overdesigned the retention ponds where manure goes in order to avoid any seepage into ground water or possibly nearby Big Creek, a tributary of the Buffalo River, so as to exceed state standards.

    C&H is permitted by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to spread that manure on hundreds of acres, mainly hay fields, Henson said, but only under strict regulation.

    For instance, they must analyze nutrients in manure and the soil where it will be applied before application. They will spread a tenth of an inch of liquid manure on a field, which immediately begins to bond with the soil, while dry chemical fertilizer must have rain to activate it.

    Henson said other farmers don’t meet the same environmental scrutiny. In fact, when they first began the operation, ADEQ officials were on site every 10 days to monitor the operation, and even the federal Environmental Protection Agency inspected the farm — they remarked on its cleanliness.

    All that is done to protect the Buffalo National River, which Henson and his cousins who own the farm have long considered an important resource.

    “It’s where I was baptized,” Henson told Kiwanians.

    In the end, Henson believes C&H’s record will be good for the future of agriculture when it’s proven that agri and the environment can successfully coexist. Farmers don’t have any intention of harming the ecosystems around them.

    “We’re just not going to do it,” Henson said.

    Club president Nita Cooper, also the Boone County Extension agent, thanked Henson and told the crowd that as consumers they should thank farmers for their work to make sure everyone can eat.

    “Have his back,” Cooper said.

  • 27 May 2017 6:16 AM | Anonymous

    Meat giant JBS says bribes greased path to explosive growth 


    By Gerson Freitas Jr., Tatiana Freitas and Jeff Wilson Bloomberg News

    When beef tycoons Joesley and Wesley Batista sat down with Brazilian prosecutors last month and told them all they knew about the corruption scandal known as Carwash, they also let the world in on a family secret.

    The decade-long rise of the Batistas' global meat powerhouse -- JBS SA, a company founded by and named for the Batistas' father, Jose Batista Sobrinho -- wouldn't have been possible without a top politician on the take, hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes and a series of sweetheart deals with Brazil's state development bank.

    "It wouldn't have worked," Joesley Batista told prosecutors, according to videos of his testimony. "It wouldn't have been so fast."

    Not since a former oil executive-turned-state witness kicked off Carwash three years ago has testimony in the case been so explosive and threatened to do so much damage to Brazil's economy and its political institutions. The fraud that the brothers described in at least seven hours of testimony is so pervasive that it has tipped Brazil back into political chaos less than a year after the nation's last president was impeached.

    In addition to handing over documents believed to implicate more than 1,800 politicians, the beef magnates also provided prosecutors with an audio recording in which President Michel Temer appears to be endorsing Joesley Batista's payment of hush money to a jailed former lawmaker. S&P Global Ratings said May 22, five days after the testimony went public, that it may cut Brazil's sovereign-credit rating even further into junk territory amid concern that the allegations put Temer's ambitious agenda -- and even his presidency -- at risk. Temer has denied any wrongdoing.

    The Batistas, led by the 45-year-old Joesley and older brother Wesley, shot into the global spotlight during the decade-long, $20 billion series of acquisitions that turned their family-owned slaughterhouse into the world's biggest meat producer.

    When the two Batistas approached Brazil's prosecutor general last month offering to trade all the evidence they'd collected in exchange for immunity, the official had "no other alternative" but to give them what they wanted, he recently recalled.

    The revelations raise questions about unfair competition abroad as the company gobbled up more than 40 rivals on four continents between 2007 and 2017. According to Joesley Batista, the state-run Brazilian Development Bank played a crucial role in JBS's expansion in the U.S. The lender injected about $3.2 billion in capital for the acquisition of Swift & Co. in 2007, the beef-producing units of Smithfield Foods Inc. in 2008, and the chicken producer Pilgrim's Pride Corp. in 2009.

    In his testimony, Joesley Batista recounted how the decade-long scheme all started with a 2005 meeting with Guido Mantega, who served as the president of the Brazilian Development Bank from 2004-06 before taking over as Brazil's finance minister from 2006-14. JBS was then just a privately held slaughterhouse, but it had plans to be much more. While other Brazilian Development Bank executives present at the meeting in the bank's Rio de Janeiro headquarters appeared skeptical, Mantega showed "strong" signs of support, Batista said.

    Mantega's lawyer didn't respond to email and phone requests for comment. The Brazilian Development Bank's press office and a JBS spokesman also didn't respond to requests for comment.

    Joesley Batista said that with Mantega's blessing, JBS started looking for opportunities abroad. It quickly found one, and in September 2005 it made a $200 million offer to buy Swift Armour SA in Argentina. The state-run bank agreed to lend the company $80 million, and the Batistas allegedly paid 4 percent of the value, or $3.2 million, as a bribe to an associate of Mantega, Batista said.

    Even with the bribe, Batista remembers thinking the terms of the loan were steep, but it was all they could get. "That's what it took for us to get the deal done," he told prosecutors.

    The brothers claimed to have continued paying kickbacks to that associate until 2009, when they started negotiating directly with Mantega, Batista said. Batista said they paid $220 million in bribes overall, with most of the money being funneled into political campaigns. JBS and other companies under the umbrella of family holding company J&F Investimentos SA were the biggest campaign contributors in the 2014 elections, in which President Dilma Rousseff won her bid for a second term, according to Brazil's electoral tribunal.

    In a letter last week, Joesley Batista said they were wrong to have participated in the scheme and apologized. "While we have explanations for what we did, we have no justification," he said. Batista said Brazil's "system" often creates barriers for businesses that want to carry transactions, and because of that, they opted to pay the bribes instead. "In other countries outside Brazil, we were able to expand our business without violating ethical values."

    Bill Bullard, the chief executive of R-Calf, a cattle industry group in Billings, Mont., that's long been critical of big meatpacking companies, recalls when JBS first broke into the market.

    "Not only was JBS able to make purchases for loans secured with bribes, they were able to jump into the U.S. cattle market and outbid potential U.S. investors for these assets," he said. "Through ill-gotten means, JBS has been able to gain control of a large portion of the U.S. cattle industry."

    Business on 05/27/2017


     

  • 21 May 2017 6:18 AM | Anonymous

    Arkansasonline


    If Buffalo Flounders

    Legacy at risk


    By Mike Masterson

    Posted: May 21, 2017 at 1:43 a.m.


    I've known and respected Gov. Asa Hutchinson for decades, ever since he occupied the 3rd District seat held for 13 terms by my late uncle John Paul Hammerschmidt of Harrison.

    To me and those who know him, Hutchinson's always been a well-intentioned, capable and honorable man.

    That said, I'm concerned the legacy from his career as a dedicated public servant stretching from the U.S. Attorney's office to Congress to heading the nation's Drug Enforcement Administration and now as governor is at risk by one major environmental mishap on our Buffalo National River that could define him in the end. It's an unnecessary risk I'd never accept.

    I'm talking about hog waste from C&H Hog Farms, which our Department of Environmental Quality (wheeze) wrongheadedly allowed into the Buffalo watershed, an act Hutchinson's predecessor Mike Beebe called his greatest regret in office. Today, abundant evidence from credible science-based sources warn a catastrophe is a distinct possibility.

    Enormous amounts of waste continually generated by this factory of 6,500 swine leave the river susceptible to calamity caused by anything from flooding to a sinkhole (like the one last month in nearby Harrison). Waste seeping into and through subsurface water also could easily wind up contaminating the river.

    Should any of these scenarios transpire on Hutchinson's watch, the blame will likely rest in perpetuity on his shoulders alone. That risk can--and should--be eliminated while it still can be.

    Voting Arkansans realize part of any governor's role lies in reacting to competing interests and hopefully making the wisest choices for the entire population. Yet, sadly, we've embraced a political system where well-connected arm twisters with deep pockets more often than not get the access and considerations they seek.

    Special interests have their lobbyists, events, associations, networks and campaign dollars to help further their narrow agendas with those elected to run our government. Everyday Arkansans have only their single voice, unless they band in common cause. Then their cry becomes a deafening chorus. Suddenly those they elected have no choice but to listen and respond.

    In the case of this hog factory, the Farm Bureau and the Pork Producers Association regularly prove adept at pulling influential political strings and pushing familiar buttons. They also do their best to convince the rest of us that this meat factory, supplied and supported not by Ma and Pa Kettle but the world's largest corporate meat packer from Brazil, is another family farm trying to make ends meet in the face of criticisms by raving, emotional environmentalists who supposedly don't like or appreciate farmers.

    I say hogwash. Nothing in such a ham-handed argument could be farther from the truth. Most Arkansans appreciate their farms, farmers and the country's first national river at the same time. And no one, especially me, believes the family that owns and operates this hog factory isn't doing its best to do so properly.

    No, our state set the grossly inadequate requirements then quietly pushed this deal through without insisting upon careful water-flow and subsurface studies beforehand. Nor did they accurately calculate how many millions of gallons of hog waste could safely be spread onto finite fields around a major tributary of the Buffalo (waste that invariably seeps into the water table and porous karst). As a result, we wound up in this endless and controversial mess.

    Can you imagine placing an equivalent human city of 30,000 on a karst-riddled hilltop above a major Buffalo tributary without a sewer system to safely cleanse the enormous amount of raw waste continuously flowing into the surrounding air, ground and water? It's beyond absurd.

    This serious matter never has been about the Newton County family who owns the factory. It revolves solely around this being the worst place in Arkansas to implant a factory that, whether admitted by politicians or special interests or not, today poses a very real threat to the purity of the national river just 6 miles downstream.

    Since our sacred river can't speak for itself, nonprofit groups such as the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, the Ozark Society, the Canoe Club and Ozark River Stewards, along with others like University of Arkansas geosciences professor emeritus John Van Brahana and his team of intrepid volunteers, thankfully have stepped into the gap to, well, carry her water.

    What can be done about this horror story needlessly created by the self-proclaimed guardians of our state's environmental quality administered by politicized appointees?

    At this point, we need a governor staunch and courageous enough to inform every relevant special interest: "Sorry folks, but the welfare of the country's first national river surpasses your political agendas," then find an honorable way to resolve this mess. Otherwise, as Dr. Brahana and others already are finding, it's but a matter of time until our beautiful Buffalo becomes contaminated. Tick-tock.

    ------------v------------

    Mike Masterson's column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.

    Editorial on 05/21/2017

  • 16 May 2017 8:20 AM | Anonymous

    MIKE MASTERSON: Woes elsewhere

    Tracking ‘pig2bac’

    By Mike Masterson

    Posted: May 16, 2017 at 4:30 a.m.


    A story by Brian Bienkowski appearing in Environmental Health News says bacteria spread from industrial hog factories (like the one our Department of Environmental Quality [wheeze] permitted into our Buffalo National River watershed) is contaminating some nearby North Carolina homes, lawns and even the air.

    Citing evidence presented in an ongoing federal court case, Bienkowski said the bacteria, named pig2bac, represent a marker specifically for pig waste laden with abundant pathogens, many of which cause human illness.

    He specifically quoted 2016 research by Shane Rogers, a professor with New York's Clarkston University, who tested air, land and exterior walks of 17 homes near a Smithfield Foods factory.

    The story says Rogers is an expert witness in a suit brought by hundreds of North Carolina residents against a Smithfield subsidiary. The professor says he discovered 14 of 17 homes near the factory tested positive for pig2bac bacteria. Rogers reportedly discovered from "tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of hog feces DNA particles" in six dust samples collected from four homes.

    Bienkowski quoted Rogers: "It's far more likely than not that hog feces also [get] inside client's homes where they live and eat."

    Residences tested were between 615 feet and nearly a mile from the factory's hog barns, between 458 feet to more than a mile from its manure lagoons, and between 71 feet and two-thirds of a mile from where liquid manure is spread on fields.

    Originally owned by Cargill, C&H Hog Farms at Mount Judea has since sold to JBS of Brazil, the world's largest meatpacking organization. The factory has such spray fields near and along Big Creek, a major Buffalo tributary, and fewer than 400 feet from the Mount Judea school and surrounding homes.

    "The pig2bac identifying marker is conservative for the presence of pig feces," Rogers testified. "This means that pig feces [have] to be in relatively high concentrations to facilitate its detection."

    Every state with hog factories should be paying attention to cutting-edge science unfolding in once pristine North Carolina, a leading hog producer. Bienkowski wrote that for years researchers and community members have warned that the enormous waste from such factories negatively affects their neighbors' health and property values. A nonprofit group found 60,000 North Carolina homes are within a half-mile of such places or hog waste lagoons. C&H has two such pits containing millions of gallons.

    "In Duplin County, the epicenter of industrial hog production in the state, more than one-fifth of the 4,660 homes are within a half mile of a confinement hog farm or a manure pit," Bienkowski wrote "Many residents have taken to litigation to fight the odors and pollution, but the state is trying to limit such lawsuits."

    I asked UA geoscience professor emeritus John Van Brahana how he believes North Carolina's contamination woes relate to Arkansas.

    "I continue to be amazed by the politics surrounding the hog factory at Mount Judea," he said. "The claim that the Farm Bureau and Arkansas Pork Producers want 'science, not emotion' has a hollow ring, for the science we, the (Karst Hydrogeology of the Buffalo National River team) have published, in total indicate that levels of E. coli, dissolved nitrate, dissolved trace metals (zinc and copper, among others--these are elevated in pig food and pig waste) are much higher in springs from groundwater that lie closest to some fields used for spreading feces and urine.

    "Dissolved oxygen, so essential for ecological and stream health, is markedly less in Big Creek during summer months currently than it was prior to dumping huge quantities of untreated hog waste in the basin. Big Creek is impaired, and [the Department of Environmental Quality] continues to not list it as such, based on political pressure. Algal blooms in the Buffalo, which thrive on excess nutrients delivered from streams and springs, were worse last summer than locals can recall. These facts are disregarded, or countered with irrelevant and confusing statements that ignore common sense, rigorous science and the recorded history of CAFOs elsewhere.

    "Countries far less environmentally friendly than ours place greater restrictions on CAFOs because they've clearly been shown to contaminate waters not only in karst lands, but aquifers and rivers that drain CAFO areas. Misrepresenting facts to make dollars for a special few by deliberately manipulating regulations demands a widespread public outcry to those accountable for protecting our environment."

    Gordon Watkins, who heads the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, believes North Carolina's woes are relevant here: "Impacts from CAFOs spread far and wide and impinge on the rights of people far beyond a CAFO's fencerows because it amounts to bacterial trespass. What's their pig poop doing in my house, my air, my water? It also shows the chilling influence the 'CAFO/Big Ag' lobby and its efforts to restrict the rights of citizens to fight back. A similar effort is going on nationally in the form of HB848 which is before the House."


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