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  • 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."


  • 13 May 2017 6:41 AM | Anonymous

    Arkansas Democrat Gazette Letter to Editor


    No experiments here


    Mike Masterson's recent column, "Science, not emotion," got me to thinking about concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and the use of built-in wastewater treatment plants to convert raw liquid swine manure into treated waste. I imagine that proponents of this sort of technology for C&H Hog Farms see this as a solution to lessen the facility's adverse impacts to waters of the state and to the Buffalo River. Good enough.
    However, industrial wastewater facilities are subject to our state's wastewater treatment facility regulations. I wonder if these proponents who push for a waste treatment plant for a CAFO in the Buffalo River Watershed will lobby for strict regulatory, compliance, and enforcement measures; after all, we're talking about waste treatment on a magnitude of scale.
    What are the cost projections for this type of facility? Who will bear the costs? C&H? JBS? Farm Bureau? Taxpayers? Has this type of technology been scientifically proven to be superior and environmentally safe for large-scale industrialized CAFOs in karst environments?
    As I pondered more on this subject, I realized that it doesn't make economic sense to site a plant for just one CAFO. Will this be a showcase facility? Might more CAFOs be allowed in the Buffalo River watershed? Is this what we want for our river?
    The Buffalo River Watershed is not the place to experiment or conduct research on behalf of industrialized agriculture.
    Now that's something to think about ...


    DANE SCHUMACHER
    Huntsville

  • 11 May 2017 8:36 AM | Anonymous

    http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/2017/may/hog-poop-bacteria-from-big-nc-farms-taints-nearby-homes#.WRWoNX46w3M.email


    Hog poop bacteria from big NC farms taints nearby homes.   


    May 11, 2017 

    By Brian Bienkowski 
    Environmental Health News 


    Bacteria from large-scale industrial hog farms in North Carolina are contaminating the homes, lawns and air of nearby private homes, according to new evidence. 

    The bacteria, called pig2bac, are a marker for pig poop, which contains hundreds of other pathogens many of which can make people sick. 

    The evidence was filed in federal court last Friday and comes as state Republicans are pushing forward a bill to shield large-scale farms from many of the legal claims that seek to recover damages from lost property value, health effects and overall suffering from living near hog farm pollution and smells. 

    The evidence was from a study by Shane Rogers, a professor and researcher at Clarkston University in New York, who tested the air and land and exterior walls of 17 homes near a Smithfield Foods hog confinement operation. The testing was done was done in 2016. 

    Rogers, who is an expert witness in a lawsuit by hundreds of people from North Carolina against a Smithfield Foods subsidiary, reported that 14 of the homes tested positive for the pig2bac bacteria. 

    In the six dust samples he collected from the air and yards of four residences he found “tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of hog feces DNA particles.” 

    “It is far more likely than not that hog feces also gets inside the client’s homes where they live and where they eat.” Shane Rogers, Clarkston UniversityFinding pig2bac means there are a lot of poop particles floating around. 

    “The pig2bac marker is conservative for the presence of pig feces,” Rogers said in his written testimony. “This means that pig feces has to be in relatively high concentrations to facilitate its detection.” 

    The homes tested were anywhere from 615 feet to nearly a mile from the hog barns; from 458 feet to more than a mile from the manure pits; and 71 feet to two-thirds of a mile from where liquid manure is sprayed on fields as fertilizer. 

    “It is far more likely than not that hog feces also gets inside the client’s homes where they live and where they eat,” Rogers wrote. 

    Rogers noted smelling strong, sickening odors at every home he visited. 

    North Carolina is a top hog producing state and for years researchers and community members have warned that the large-scale confinement hog farms—which house thousands of hogs—are impacting neighbors’ health and property values. 

    Last month the environmental nonprofit group Environmental Working Group mapped North Carolinian’s proximity to confinement hog farms and found that 60,000 homes across the state are within a half mile of such farms or pits where hog manure is stored. 

    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. 

    Many residents have taken to litigation to fight the odors and pollution, but the state is trying to limit such lawsuits. Rogers’ testimony came as North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, vetoed a state bill—House Bill 467—that sought to cap the amount of damages citizens could recoup in nuisance lawsuits against industrial hog farms. However, this week the Republican-dominated House voted to override Cooper’s veto. 

    Supporters of the bill, in part a response to 26 pending lawsuits in federal court against Smithfield Foods subsidiary Murphy-Brown, said it would give hog producers clarity on what damages can be awarded under nuisance lawsuit damages and protect farmers from lawyers that like to “sue farmers for as much money as possible,” according to a statement on the bill from the N.C. Pork Council. 

    Those opposed say the bill would limit the ability of those living near large hog farms to protect themselves against pollution and odors and the resulting health and quality of life concerns. 

    The 26 pending lawsuits were filed by more than 500 people in Eastern North Carolina who claim Murphy-Brown subjects them to wastewater, foul air, chronic sickness and decreased property values. 

    “We don’t want to shut down farms, we just want to stop the pollution,” said Naeema Muhammad, co-director for the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network. 

    House Bill 467 needs a Senate vote before becoming law. 

    “These folks' ability to protect their families from airborne pig feces and once again enjoy their homes now rests with the state Senate," said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, in a statement. 


    EHN welcomes republication of our stories, but we require that publications include the author's name and Environmental Health News at the top of the piece, along with a link back to EHN's version. 

    For questions or feedback about this piece, contact Brian Bienkowski at bbienkowski@ehn.org.

  • 04 May 2017 9:55 AM | Anonymous

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


    Contacts: 

    Jessie J. Green, 870.577.5071, jessie@whiteriverwaterkeeper.org

    Maia Raposo, Director of Communications & Marketing, Waterkeeper Alliance: mraposo@waterkeeper.org; 212.747.0622 ext. 116


    White River Waterkeeper: 


    Newly Formed Environmental Group to Patrol and Protect the White River and its’ tributaries. 


    The Waterkeeper Alliance Board of Directors has approved the White River Waterkeeper organization. Jessie J. Green, the newly appointed White River Waterkeeper, will work to protect and preserve the White River and its’ tributaries by combining her firsthand knowledge of aquatic ecology and the waterway with an unwavering commitment to the rights of the community and to the rule of law. Recently having left her position as a Senior Ecologist in the Office of Water at Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, Jessie is well versed in, and well equipped to address, the number of issues affecting water quality in the state of Arkansas. 


    “Waterkeeper Alliance is thrilled to have Jessie to be the eyes, ears, and voice for this vital watershed and community,” said Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., President of Waterkeeper Alliance. “Every community deserves to have swimmable, drinkable and fishable water, and Jessie is the right leader to fight for clean water in the region.”

    The White River Waterkeeper will be a full-time advocate for the White River and its tributaries, protecting and restoring water quality through community action and enforcement. Jessie J. Green stated, “White River Waterkeeper’s aim is to provide strong advocacy that will result in an improved quality of life for all citizens whether they rely on it for drinking water or recreation, or whether they simply value the continued well-being of White River and many of its’ extraordinary tributaries such as the Buffalo, Strawberry, Kings, Eleven Point, Cache, and Little Red Rivers.”


    “Jessie will have an incredibly important job,” added Marc Yaggi, Executive Director of Waterkeeper Alliance. “Waterkeepers defend their communities against anyone who threatens their right to clean water, from law-breaking polluters to irresponsible government officials. Until our public agencies have the means necessary to protect us from polluters, and the will to enforce the law, there will always be a great need for people like Jessie to fight for our right to clean water.”


    The White River Waterkeeper will work on watershed-related issues from the headwaters of the White River in Washington County, AR, across the Ozarks of northern Arkansas and southern Missouri, and a significant portion of eastern Arkansas all the way to the mouth of the White River in Desha County, AR. 


    White River Waterkeeper’s mission is to protect the public health and natural resources of the White River watershed through advocacy, education, and research. By filling a unique niche and assisting entities is accomplishing common goals, White River Waterkeeper will serve the watershed by organizing efforts, providing an accessible and knowledgeable respondent to environmental concerns, advocating for water quality, educating decision makers and the general public in water-related concerns, and conducting research to better characterize and assess the quality of our waterbodies. While most of White River Waterkeeper’s primary objectives have statewide implications, such as supporting research and advocating for better water quality standards that are both scientifically defensible and protective of swimmable, drinkable and fishable uses, many objectives necessitate waterbody and regional approaches specific to localized threats. 


    As the White River watershed is both massive and incredibly diverse, the organization will undoubtedly require time to grow into its role. Due to the opportunities present (e.g. development of a watershed management plan and state agencies directed to outline actions that will address priority water quality issues) and numerous threats (e.g. failing infrastructure and conflicting management objectives), as well as the recent Most Endangered Rivers designation, the Buffalo River will serve as an initial priority. To best address concerns within the Buffalo River watershed, Jessie will soon be opening an office for White River Waterkeeper in Jasper, AR. Ultimately, the goal will be to have a strong presence and will be working toward objectives addressing concerns throughout the entire watershed, in both Arkansas and Missouri. 


    To learn more, visit whiteriverwaterkeeper.org


    About Waterkeeper Alliance

    Waterkeeper Alliance is a global movement uniting over 300 Waterkeeper organizations around the world and focusing citizen advocacy on issues that affect our waterways, from pollution to climate change. Waterkeepers patrol and protect more than 2.4 million square miles of rivers, streams, and coastlines in the Americas, Europe, Australia, Asia, and Africa. www.waterkeeper.org.

    ###

    -- 

    Jessie J. Green

    White River WATERKEEPER®

    Cell: (870) 577-5071 

    Email: jessie@whiteriverwaterkeeper.org

    Website: www.whiteriverwaterkeeper.org

  • 30 Apr 2017 4:08 PM | Anonymous

    Teresa talks science 


    Teresa Turk, a marine biologist and researcher dedicated to protecting the Buffalo National River, spoke at the Harrison library last week where she outlined the latest scientific findings about water-quality studies along the river and a major tributary, Big Creek, that flows alongside the controversial C&H Hog Farms at Mount Judea.

    Here's the essence of what I gleaned from her session: Tourists on the river increased by 300,000 between 2015 and 2016. Resulting revenue climbed from $72 to $77 million. Related jobs increased from 969 to 1,200. "While many will say the hog factory isn't affecting tourism," she said, "one could say the pollution, such as thick algae blooms spanning 17 miles, has not yet become obvious enough to get the word out that our national river's in trouble."

    Dr. John Van Brahana's groundwater dye-tracing studies found a very complex, widely connected hydrology system with positive dye results: Ten miles distant at Mitch Hill Spring upstream of Carver on the Buffalo; eastward to Cave Creek; and, most startling, even above the Big Creek Research and Extension Team's upstream water-quality testing site on Big Creek.

    "Having found positive dye results above [the team's] upstream site is very significant because [it] uses that spot as a 'control' to determine if the hog factory is impacting water quality downstream," she said. "So by having a positive dye finding above even that location after being injected below, it makes the idea of this being a research control site is naturally invalidated."

    The U.S. Geological Survey found low dissolved oxygen 20.5 percent of the time in its study of Big Creek. That exceeds the state standard of 10 percent. Low dissolved oxygen affects the stream's health and, even the lives of various stream fauna, and is caused by algal growth.

    Turk said Big Creek, with waste-spreading fields along its banks, had the highest algal growth of five streams the USGS examined. "By having low dissolved oxygen well in excess of our 10 percent state limit, Big Creek should have been placed on the EPA's 303 (d) list of impaired streams in 2015. E.coli studies from 2014 indicate Big Creek also met criteria as an impaired stream while the 2015 data has yet to be analyzed." Preliminary results from the Big Creek team and another study show E.coli levels do not consistently exceed state standards, and similar information from the National Park Service has yet to be examined.

    Turk said research shows nitrates are consistently higher downstream of the factory compared with upstream. "Although the nitrates aren't close to violating the approved drinking water limit, they are much higher than they should be."


  • 29 Apr 2017 7:21 AM | Anonymous

    Not going swimming


    I read with interest the comment of Jack Boles of Hasty. Like Mr. Boles, I have enjoyed the beauty and tranquility of the Buffalo River for many years (60+). I also appreciate any efforts of Governor Hutchinson to protect the river; but there must be more!


    It is clear to me and, I think, to anyone who chooses to spend even a short time thinking about it, that the hog farm, and the hog **** it generates has and is damaging the river and will continue to do so.


    There is already evidence of changes which will continue, and "extensive testing" would prove the continuing damage if it were allowed. And those changes which have taken literally months to develop cannot be corrected in our lifetimes.


    I may take my grandchildren to see the beauty of the mountains, forest, etc., but I will not let them swim in the river as I did 65 years ago.


    BLAINE A. JACKSON

    Bentonville


  • 29 Apr 2017 7:09 AM | Anonymous

    Science, not emotion

    By Mike Masterson

    Posted: April 29, 2017 at 2:08 a.m.


    NWAOnline


    John Ikerd, an internationally respected respected University of Missouri professor emeritus of agricultural economics, has significant points to make about the realities of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). I call them corporate-supported meat factories such as the one that continues to generate intense controversy in our Buffalo National River watershed.

    In his exhaustive study on the consequences of CAFOs, Ikerd said these factories originally were welcomed into Missouri. And within 10 years, 90 percent of Missouri's independent hog producers were forced out of business by their competition.

    In decades since, Ikerd has worked with groups in 16 states and four Canadian provinces. He's also reviewed countless studies on CAFOs prepared by highly reputable research institutions. He cited one 2006 review of 56 socioeconomoic studies by the North Dakota Attorney General's Office that concluded:

    "Based on the evidence ... we conclude that public concern about detrimental community impacts of industrialized farming is warranted. In brief, this conclusion rests on five decades of government and academic concern with this topic, a concern that has ... grown more intense in recent years, as the social and environmental problems associated with [large CAFOs] have become widely recognized."

    Ikerd also writes that a 2008 Pew Charitable Trust funded study determined: "The current industrial farm animal production system often poses unacceptable risks to public health, the environment and the welfare of the animals. The negative effects are too great and the scientific evidence is too strong to ignore."

    Ikerd found serious consequences from CAFOs are inevitable. "A particular individual CAFO may be designed and operated in such [a] way as to avoid these consequences for some specified period of time. However, the economic, ecological, and social consequences are inevitable for any significant group of CAFOs at any point in time and for any individual CAFO over a significant period of time."

    Ikerd said between 1980 and 2008, federal data indicates traditional family hog farms declined by 90 percent. Between 1992 and 2004 alone, the number fell more than 70 percent.

    On water pollution, he said the EPA found waste generated by large-scale hog and other CAFOs had polluted over 35,000 miles of river and contaminated groundwater in 17 states. Large "dead zones" have been created in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere by CAFOs and the industrial corn and soybean operations that provide their feed. "The environmental regulation of CAFOs has been far less stringent, and far less effective, than for other industries because CAFO supporters have been able to convince lawmakers that CAFOs are agricultural, not industrial, operations. Farming is exempted from many environmental regulations," he writes.

    This expert in sustainable agriculture writes that negative effects on water quality are a consequence of waste from too many animals in areas too small to effectively assimilate it. When waste is over-applied, potentially useful nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus become pollutants, exceeding the ability of natural ecosystems to neutralize them. "Excessive nitrogen and phosphorus, along with residual antibiotics, pesticides, and heavy metals are flushed into streams and leached into groundwater," he added. "Thousands of miles of streams in the U.S. have been polluted by CAFOs following approved manure management plans."

    CAFOs should be regulated like any industrial operation, he wrote, and animal waste should be regulated much like human waste to protect public health. These regulations "should reflect the same basic logic and principles as municipal waste treatment regulations, with appropriate adjustment for differences in health risks ... . Any confinement animal feeding operation over a specific size, for example 250 animal units, should be treated as an animal municipality, rather than a farming operation. Such operations should be required to have full-scale, multi-stage waste treatment facilities as deemed appropriate to protect public health."

    It takes only about 280 feeder pigs to produce as much total solid biological waste as 1,000 humans, Ikert wrote, so 2,800 feeder pigs produce as much biological waste as a human community of 10,000. Pig waste is 39 times more concentrated than human waste, "so animal waste can quite logically be thought of as a form of toxic waste.

    "Regulations remain lax because the corporations that control CAFOs have the economic and political power to prevent effective regulation. The people of rural communities simply cannot afford to wait until regulators are overwhelmed with mountains of scientific evidence documenting the negative effects of CAFOs. There are inevitable economic, social, ecological, and human health effects inherent in the industrial organizational structure of CAFOs. They are designed and operated to maximize profits, not minimize or even mitigate ecological, social, or human health risks."

    Those who express scientifically justifiable concerns over the inevitable environmental effects of a CAFO located in an ecologically sensitive watershed are labeled by those behind CAFOs as emotional over-reactors and "radical, idealistic environmentalists who just don't understand modern agriculture," Ikerd wrote.

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

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

  • 27 Apr 2017 2:17 PM | Anonymous

    Cows, chickens taint Shenandoah River with E. coli  

    • By SARAH RANKIN, ASSOCIATED PRESS 

      RICHMOND, Va. — Apr 26, 2017


      Excessive livestock manure from millions of turkeys, chickens and cows in Virginia is making its way into the Shenandoah River, polluting the scenic waterway with unsafe levels of E. coli, according to a new report from an environmental advocacy group.

      The Environmental Integrity Project analyzed hundreds of state records for the report released Wednesday. In addition to E. coli, which can sicken the swimmers, fishermen and tubers who flock to the river, the report also found elevated levels of phosphorous, which contributes to the growth of algae blooms and low-oxygen "dead zones."

      "The Shenandoah Valley is a place of incomparable beauty and cultural value, but its continued health is at risk," says the report, which suggests the state's manure management system isn't adequately protecting human health or water quality and is undermining Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts.

      The Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, which has some 3,500 members, pushed back against the report, calling it "an opinion piece" that aims to paint agriculture in a bad light.

      The report focuses on four counties in the bucolic Shenandoah Valley watershed that are also home to a large-scale farming industry.

      Together, farmers in Augusta, Page, Rockingham and Shenandoah counties raise more than 172 million chicken and turkeys a year and more than half a million dairy and beef cows, the report says. Those animals generate more than 410,000 tons of poultry litter and about 1 billion gallons (3.8 billion liters) of liquid manure a year.

      Most of that is spread on surrounding farmland, the report found. But pollution management plans, also called nutrient management plans, are only required for large livestock operations, which account for only 12.5 percent of the farmland in those counties, the report says.

      The report found that more than 90 percent of the water quality monitoring stations where the state regularly samples the river and its tributaries detected E. coli at levels unsafe for human contact over the past two years.

      Furthermore, the state's manure control system allows manure containing far more phosphorous to be applied than the crops need, according to the report. That manure can leak into groundwater or wash into surrounding streams when it rains, eventually making it to the Shenandoah, which joins the Potomac that empties into the Chesapeake Bay.

      Herschel Finch, a fisher, kayaker and the conservation chairman of the Potomac River Smallmouth Club, said when he moved to the Shenandoah Valley in 1977, the fishing was fantastic.

      But in the past 15 years or so, he began to see fish die-offs and excessive algae growth.

      "There are sections where it's just completely unproductive to go fish anymore because the algae is taking up all the oxygen and the fish just can't survive," he said Wednesday in a conference call with reporters.

      When the fish aren't there, fishermen stay away too, and Finch said he's seen tourism-related businesses shut down.

      When it comes to E. coli, Virginia should do a better job of issuing public advisories about the elevated levels, the report advises.

      "The state issues public advisories warning beachgoers to stay out of the ocean when bacteria levels do not meet the recreational standard. But the state provides no such notice when the Shenandoah Valley and other rivers and streams are contaminated, even when E. coli levels are more than 100 times the recreational limit," it says.

      Bill Hayden, a spokesman for the Department of Environmental Quality, said the state health department is responsible for deciding when and where to notify the public about water quality. The health department didn't respond to requests for comment about the state's policies.

      Hayden said no one at the agency had reviewed the report yet, so he couldn't comment on the specifics.

      He said there's always room for improvement in the state's nutrient management program, but Virginia has seen an overall improvement in bacterial contamination in the Shenandoah River basin.

      Wilmer Stoneman, director of commodities and marketing for the Farm Bureau Federation, said farmers face stringent regulations and are doing more than ever to improve conservation overall.

      "This is an opinion piece that tries to paint agriculture in a bad light," said Stoneman, who has been the federation's point person on water quality and environmental issues for 22 years. "It's springtime, so let's do a bad agriculture story."

      Waste-water treatment, residential runoff and wildlife also impact water quality, he said.

      "We understand farming is part of the Shenandoah heritage and way of life ... But the public has the right to know when that water isn't safe to enjoy," said Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project.

      Schaeffer was formerly the director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's office of civil enforcement. He founded the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Integrity Project, which advocates for effective enforcement of environmental laws.

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