Buffalo River 
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  • 26 Apr 2018 7:29 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Plaintiffs Awarded $50 Million in Landmark Smithfield Hog Nuisance Case

    by Erica Hellerstein

    April 26, 2018


    In a landmark decision, the jury ruling on the first of twenty-six nuisance cases against pork-producer Murphy-Brown LLC awarded the plaintiffs damages of more than $50 million. 

    The case, which went to the jury yesterday afternoon, was the first in a series of federal lawsuits filed by neighbors of hog farms against Murphy-Brown LLC, a subsidiary of the Chinese-owned global food giant Smithfield Foods. The plaintiffs argue that the company's waste-management practices, which consist of storing excess hog waste in open-air cesspools behind hog pens and then liquefying and spraying the remains onto nearby fields, has made their lives miserable. Among other things, they say that the odors and mist from the spray drift onto their property; that the hogs attract swarms of flies, buzzards, and gnats; that boxes filled with rotting dead hogs produce an especially pungent stink; and that the stench has limited their ability to go outside.

    The trial involved ten plaintiffs who live near Kinlaw Farm, a large-scale hog operation in Bladen County that contracts with Murphy-Brown to raise about 15,000 hogs. 

    In an email, Michelle Nowlin, the supervising attorney for the Environmental Law and Policy Clinic at Duke Law and the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University, called the verdict “a significant victory for the community members who live next to these factory feedlots. They have suffered indescribable insults, not just from the immediate impacts of the feedlots themselves, but also from decades of government failure to come to their aid. Litigation was their last chance for justice, and this verdict and award will help them move forward.

    “This verdict proves, once and for all, that ‘cheap meat’ is a myth. Someone pays the price of production, and for far too long, that burden has been on the rural communities that are home to North Carolina’s factory farms. This verdict forces the industry to internalize and reckon with those costs. I’m hopeful this decisive victory will be a game-changer in North Carolina and force the industry to modernize its waste-treatment, to the benefit of rural communities, the environment, and the farmers themselves.”

    The N.C. Pork Council could not immediately be reached for comment. In a statement attributed to senior vice president Keira Lombardo, Smithfield Foods promised to appeal, writing: 

     We are extremely disappointed by the verdict. We will appeal to the Fourth Circuit, and we are confident we will prevail. We believe the outcome would have been different if the court had allowed the jury to (1) visit the plaintiffs’ properties and the Kinlaw farm and (2) hear additional vital evidence, especially the results of our expert’s odor-monitoring tests.

    These lawsuits are an outrageous attack on animal agriculture, rural North Carolina and thousands of independent family farmers who own and operate contract farms. These farmers are apparently not safe from attack even if they fully comply with all federal, state and local laws and regulations. The lawsuits are a serious threat to a major industry, to North Carolina’s entire economy and to the jobs and livelihoods of tens of thousands of North Carolinians.

    From the beginning, the lawsuits have been nothing more than a money grab by a big litigation machine. Plaintiffs’ original lawyers promised potential plaintiffs a big payday. Those lawyers were condemned by a North Carolina state court for unethical practices. Plaintiffs’ counsel at trial relied heavily on anti-agriculture, anti-corporate rhetoric rather than the real facts in the case. These practices are abuses of our legal system, and we will continue to fight them.


    Read the INDY’s investigative series on Big Pork in North Carolina here

    Here is the jury”s verdict, for $50.75 million, equally divided among the ten plaintiffs. The verdict orders that each plaintiff receive $75,000 in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages. In a statement citing Smithfield’s attorney, spokeswoman Joyce Fitzpatrick argues that North Carolina law restricts punitive damages to no more than $250,000: “If a trier of fact returns a verdict for punitive damages in excess of the maximum amount … the trial court shall reduce the award and enter judgment for punitive damages in the maximum amount.”


  • 24 Apr 2018 9:59 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Arkansasonline


    MIKE MASTERSON: Rootin’ for a permit 

    Back on Buffalo

    By Mike Masterson

    This article was published April 24, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.


    After appealing the state's denial of a Regulation 5 permit in the Buffalo National River watershed, owners of C&H Hog Farms are trying to cover their interests by applying for another form of five-year permit.



    Meanwhile, the C&H appeal winds on toward an August hearing before an administrative law judge. The factory continues operating on its expired Regulation 6 general permit while regularly spraying untold gallons of raw waste onto fields around Big Creek, a major tributary of the Buffalo.


    At the risk of being obtusely technical (and thus boring) today, I'm relaying my understanding of what's happening with all this C&H permittin' and denyin' and reapplyin'.



    C&H began operating in 2012 as the state's only holder of a Regulation 6 general permit. There also exists a Regulation 6 individual wastewater discharge permit. Both are issued by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (cough).


    In determining compliance, the agency follows the USDA's Agricultural Waste Management Field Handbook. The book contains technical federal environmental requirements that should be met for a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) like C&H to become permitted.


    Such demands are especially relevant in a region whose karst-riddled subsurface is highly fractured, cavernous and filled with voids that allow groundwater to travel far and fast. Exercising such caution only reflects due diligence and common sense.


    Yet the agency decided in 2012 to quickly and quietly issue C&H its permit. It was awarded without insistence upon critical geologic and groundwater flow studies, in-depth evaluations of berms and liners of two lagoons (together holding 3 million gallons of raw waste), and other requirements clearly listed in the field handbook.


    Although it had staff geologists fully capable of conducting karst and groundwater studies in 2012, not one examination was assigned. In effect, the agency welcomed C&H to a Newton County hilltop to begin raising 6,500 swine six miles upstream from what was voted recently as the state's most popular attraction.


    C&H's general permit expired in 2017. The Department of Environmental Quality by then had eliminated that particular permit altogether. C&H then applied for a CAFO-specific Regulation 5 permit which, among other favorable aspects to the factory, would have no expiration date.


    While differing in some aspects from the Regulation 6 general permit, the Regulation 5 version was still subject to the field handbook's stringent requirements. Someone at Environmental Quality obviously regained their senses and realized the wastewater requirements exist for a reason and should be followed.


    That left C&H owners holding the bag since for the first time they were told they had to conduct the groundwater flow testing and other demands. We are taking about some expensive and extensive (yet necessary) testing being enforced five years after it should have been done.


    C&H's request for the new permit was properly denied because these specific requirements were missing from its application. The owners understandably cried foul. It wasn't their fault the agency had inexplicably failed to follow its own guidelines when issuing the permit in 2012.


    So with Environmental Quality's general permit expired and discontinued, and the Regulation 5 application denied, C&H was left only with a Regulation 6 individual permit as a hopeful long-shot. However, that permit doesn't fit C&H's situation since its intended focus has been with industrial wastewater facilities rather than CAFOs.


    So here we are awaiting results of the C&H appeal of the Regulation 5 denial and watching the CAFO's latest permitting attempt. The way I see it, those necessary requirements cited in the USDA handbook present a formidable hurdle that must be satisfactorily met if this factory is allowed to operate, period.


    I do feel for the C&H owner/operators who were recruited and supported by Cargill Inc. and agricultural lobbyists into pioneering their CAFO into the heart of our sacred Buffalo watershed.


    The owners did everything the state required. Several highly placed officials in the Department of Environmental Quality are responsible for allowing this fiasco by initially ignoring the USDA's prescribed actions designed to protect sensitive environments and ecosystems.


    Because this monumental failure falls squarely on the agency's shoulders, the state should be willing to make these owners financially whole, then insist on a full cleanup and closure.


    Even then, geoscientists familiar with the porous watershed fear the fractured ground beneath the factory and its spray fields already contains untold amounts of raw waste that have settled into subterranean voids, which could take a very long time to clear.


    The USDA's regulations here are neither arbitrary nor vague. They exist for significant reasons, based on the known effects and science behind permitting any waste-generating factory.


    At the same time, I'm pleased to see the Department of Environmental Quality finally step up and acknowledge it should have insisted on all relevant groundwater, geologic and lagoon safety issues being fully resolved when they should have been nearly six years ago.


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




  • 23 Apr 2018 9:54 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Group studying ways to protect waters in Arkansas

    6 people will advise agency on how to implement policy

    By Emily Walkenhorst

    Posted: April 23, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.


    NWAOnline


    A focus group of six people has begun studying how the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality should implement its policy to protect the state's waters from degradation.


    The department said in a statement that it will take the group's feedback to a stakeholder group on the Continuing Planning Process, a document that outlines how a state will implement its water-quality programs. The department has not updated it since 2000. It's required under the Clean Water Act, passed in 1975.


    Also required under the act is an anti-degradation implementation plan. States write an anti-degradation policy and then must write an implementation plan for that policy. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Arkansas and New Mexico are the only two states without implementation plans.


    Some members expressed in phone interviews interest in participating but didn't offer many specific details about what they would or wouldn't like to see in the plan.

    "It's pretty simple why we would want to be on it," said Colene Gaston, attorney for the Beaver Water District in Northwest Arkansas. "To protect Beaver Lake."


    Shon Simpson, owner of GMBc & Associates environmental and engineering firm, has worked on anti-degradation analyses for clients with water-discharge permits in other central states.


    "My interest is that the policy is very clear," Simpson said.


    The department asked Simpson to be on the focus group, along with John Bailey, director of environmental regulatory affairs for the Arkansas Farm Bureau.


    Bailey said the Farm Bureau doesn't work with entities that would discharge directly into a body of water, but they work with people who apply animal waste to the ground, which could affect water quality. He said his position in the focus group would be to ensure best management practices for land application of waste remain in place for agricultural use but are also factored in for companies or utilities that might apply non-agricultural waste.


    Bailey said the department had already put in a lot of work drafting a new anti-degradation policy and an anti-degradation implementation plan.


    "It's a matter of getting into the weeds, making sure everything is thought through," he said.


    Department officials presented an outline of a plan, including recommendations from the EPA, to the focus group April 5.


    To comply with the Clean Water Act, the state must classify its water bodies by quality and significance in a tiered system.


    Tier 3 waters, typically thought of as water bodies with exceptional recreational or ecological roles, aren't supposed to degrade at all.


    Tier 2 waters are considered "high quality," with economic, public health or ecological value, according to the EPA. That means that when significant degradation -- more than 10 percent, according to the department's presentation -- is expected for such waters, water discharge permit applicants must offer an analysis of alternative discharge methods that would degrade the water body less or explain why economic or social conditions justify a more degrading discharge method.


    Simpson said the state should define what it would consider a cost-effective alternative to the applicant's original proposal.


    In Missouri, the permit applicant must use the cleaner alternative even if it costs up to 20 percent more.


    The department's presentation also included Tier 2.5 waters -- a designation that is not outlined by the EPA but is used by many states and tribes, according to the EPA. The department's presentation described them as "exceptional high quality" waters -- specifically, domestic water supplies. In the presentation, Tier 2.5 waters, unlike Tier 2 waters, would never be allowed to degrade more than 10 percent.


    In many states, Tier 2 waters are classified as such based on whether they are exceeding the water quality standards set for them. If they're not, they are Tier 1 waters. Simpson said he preferred this approach.

    Tier 1 waters need only to maintain their designated uses, such as being a fishable or swimmable body of water.


    The department has classified Tier 3 waters but not Tier 2 waters.

    The department presented the plans of seven other states -- Arkansas' six neighbors and New Mexico, which is in the same EPA region -- to the focus group for study.

    The group doesn't have a timeline for finishing its review and feedback on anti-degradation implementation, but members plan to meet next month.


    The members are:

    • Ellen Carpenter, an interested citizen and retired department water division chief.

    • Colene Gaston, an attorney for the Beaver Water District.

    • John Bailey, director of environmental regulatory affairs for the Arkansas Farm Bureau.

    • Shon Simpson, owner of GMBc & Associates environmental and engineering firm.

    • Anna Weeks, environmental policy coordinator at the Arkansas Public Policy Panel.

    • Jim Malcolm, vice president and policy advisor at FTN Associates environmental and engineering firm.


    Metro on 04/23/2018



  • 18 Apr 2018 8:25 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Arkansas Times


    Hog farm near Buffalo River, operating on expired permit, files application for new type of permit

    Posted By David Ramsey on Wed, Apr 18, 2018 at 7:14 AM


    C&H Hog Farms, the concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) near the Buffalo River that fattens pigs for slaughter for a Brazilian meat processing conglomerate, isn't going away without a fight. 

    The D-G reports that C&H, currently operating under an expired permit, is applying for a different type of permit to operate its 6,500-swine facility after its application for a new permit was denied earlier this year. 

    The Mt. Judea facility has been controversial since it was granted a CAFO permit in 2012. Critics allege that the original permitting process was flawed and violated the law, and that the more than 2 million gallons of manure and wastewater generated annually by the facility are an existential threat to the vulnerable terrain and ecosystem of the Buffalo River watershed. 

    C&H was the only facility in the state ever to apply for a CAFO general permit, which was established in 2011. As a "general permit," it had less stringent requirements than "individual permits" that must be more specific regarding the details of the particular applicant. In April of 2016, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality eliminated the CAFO general permit altogether. That same month, C&H applied for a different type of liquid animal waste permit, which was denied by the ADEQ more than eighteen months later in January 2018.  In the mean time, C&H continued to operate under its old CAFO permit, which had technically expired in October 2016. It continues to operate under that old permit while it appeals the ADEQ's denial of the new permit. 

    Now C&H is applying for an altogether different type of liquid animal waste permit — a five-year individual permit to operate its CAFO. The game here is to bog down the regulatory system in enough paperwork and processes to continue to operate despite no longer having an approved permit to do so. 


  • 18 Apr 2018 8:22 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Arkansasonline


    Hog farm applies for different permit 


    C&H submits documents in hopes of gaining 5-year operating license from state


    A Newton County hog farm is continuing its fight to keep operating near the Buffalo River.

    C&H Hog Farms has submitted application documents for a different type of operating permit, three months after another application was turned down.

    If all of the documents are submitted and the application is approved by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, C&H Hog Farms would be able to continue operating under a five-year permit. The farm that houses 6,503 hogs is still operating under its expired permit while the owners appeal the department's denial of their application.

    It was unclear Tuesday whether the hog farm had submitted its entire application. Messages left at the Department of Environmental Quality were not returned, and Jason Henson, a farm co-owner, and the other owners did not respond to messages seeking comment.

    C&H Hog Farms has become a concern for environmental groups that fear manure could leak into and pollute the Buffalo National River.

    The farm is on Big Creek, about 6 miles from where it flows into the Buffalo River, which had about 1.5 million visitors last year. C&H was the first and remains the only federally classified medium or large hog farm in the area.

    Unlike the application denied earlier this year, the farmers' nutrient-management plan notes that it will maintain the number of hogs at 6,503 -- 2,503 hogs of 55 pounds or more and 4,000 pigs of less than 55 pounds. Their denied application proposed six boars of about 450 pounds apiece, 2,672 sows of at least 400 pounds each and 750 piglets of about 14 pounds each.

    C&H is applying for a Regulation 6 individual permit, which is a wastewater discharge permit under federal regulations implemented by the Environmental Quality Department.

    It's a different permit from the one the farm was originally permitted under, which was a Regulation 6 general permit, because conditions for individual permits are tailored to the facility and conditions for general ones assume what is appropriate based on similar facilities. 

    It's also different from the permit C&H applied for in 2016, which was a Regulation 5 individual permit under state water regulations.

    State water regulations are supposed to be at least as strict as federal regulations.

    All other hog farms in Arkansas are permitted under Regulation 5. C&H cannot apply to renew its Regulation 6 general permit because the state chose to discontinue the permitting program.

    The farmers prefer a Regulation 5 permit and would close their application if they could get one, Henson wrote in an email that included the initial application packet Thursday night.

    The farmers are awaiting an August trial before the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission to see if they can obtain or begin the process to obtain a Regulation 5 permit.

    Richard Mays, an attorney for intervenors who oppose C&H in the case, said Tuesday that he and his clients were unaware C&H had applied for a Regulation 6 permit.

    "They're trying to cover all their bases," he said.

    Mays said he thinks the department can require whatever it wants of C&H and that the facility would likely face the same obstacles.

    The Environmental Quality Department denied C&H Hog Farms an operating permit in part because the operation did not conduct a study on the flow direction of groundwater or develop an emergency action plan, according to the department's responses to public comments on the permit application.

    The study and the plan were recommended by the Agricultural Waste Management Field Handbook, and the department determined they were necessary because of the rocky karst terrain upon which the farm sits.

    The permit application documents submitted Thursday do not appear to include an emergency action plan or a study on the groundwater, but it was unclear whether the documents filed at the department were the entirety of the application. 

    Henson wrote in his email Thursday that he would send more documents but was unable to send them all at once because of the size of the files.

    C&H has asked the Pollution Control and Ecology Commission to allow it to argue that the department improperly denied the Regulation 5 permit.

    The department has filed a motion to dismiss, and the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance and the Ozark Society have intervened.

    In the application, the farmers said the operation generates about 2 million gallons of wastewater annually.

    C&H has 630.7 acres to which it can apply the manure as fertilizer, they wrote.

    The facility would have a holding pond that could contain nearly 2.4 million gallons of manure and a shallow pit that could contain nearly 800,000 gallons.

    The application also includes numerous land-use contracts for potential application of manure and setback requirement waivers to apply manure up to neighbors' property lines.

    C&H's operators also have explored expanding their hog production in Johnson County.

    Metro on 04/18/2018


  • 03 Apr 2018 8:34 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    MIKE MASTERSON: Public events coming; back the Buffalo

    By Mike Masterson

    Posted: April 3, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.


    NWAOnline


    As readers of this space know all too well, as with many, I am an unapologetic (some say fervent) supporter of protecting and preserving our country's first national river.


    The spectacular Buffalo flows 150 scenic miles through God's country. This one-and-only stream is a treasure USA Today calls our state's greatest attraction that draws nearly 2 million visitors annually who leave behind about $78 million that supports the local and state economy.


    Two coming public events will allow supporters to express their devotion. More on that below. First, valued readers, allow me yet another semi-rant.


    To have needlessly threatened such a treasure due to our state's unfathomable malfeasance and negligence has been and remains a news story of national significance. At the same time, I also strongly support our state's farms and those who labor daily, making a living to provide our food. They are such a valuable part of many successes our state has enjoyed, as well as its heritage.


    In light of the lobbyists' spin in pushing their own political interests, I often find it necessary to repeat my admiration and respect for those who farm. And of course they require the property and resources necessary to earn their living.


    My only problem stems from science and experience, both of which have proved how the enormous amounts of waste from factory farms mislocated in sensitive watersheds can turn once beautiful rivers and streams into virtual dead zones. A simple Internet check of "concentrated animal feeding operations and water contamination" proves just how true and serious a problem this has become.


    In the case of the C&H Hog Farms operating at Mount Judea with some 6,500 swine in our Buffalo National River watershed, my concern never has been with the owner/operators. I'll repeat just for clarity: Never.


    Rather, I fault the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (cough) for ever allowing a good Newton County family to so quickly and conveniently set up shop five years ago in such a sacred and dangerously inappropriate region.


    This department's administrators in 2012 also approved the factory's location without insisting first and foremost on a geologic study from its own staff of geologists.

    It is indeed hard to believe, but not a single crucial geologic survey was required in this karst-riddled region before the agency issued the then-Cargill-supported factory a general operating permit.


    Cargill sold its pork interests to Brazil's JBS (the world's largest meat packers), whose leaders have fallen under criminal investigation and charges of public corruption.


    C&H's request for a revised operating permit was denied in January primarily for insufficient subsurface water-flow studies and matters of waste lagoon safety. But it continues spreading tons of raw waste under its expired original permit while appealing the denial.


    So it's an appropriate period for reflection and discussion. And that's just what's planned for this Saturday, where any interested citizens can gather between 6 and 8 p.m. at Fayetteville's Mount Sequoya Conference Center, 150 N. Skyline Drive.


    The forum will feature local and national experts explaining the purely scientific effects of factory farming on the state and nation's environment. (That's as opposed to the political spin and blather usually offered by obvious special interests.)


    "Nowhere is this rapid, negative change more obvious and more destructive than the creation of massive ... CAFOs now polluting communities across the nation. Air quality is ruined. Well water is contaminated. Waterways are impaired. And the quality of life for America's rural residents is put at risk for long-term harm," say leaders of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance and the Socially Responsible Agricultural Project, who are sponsoring the evening.


    "Right now, this threat is growing for the Buffalo National River. Moves are being made in Little Rock that would jeopardize the health and safety of America's 'First National River'--and the communities and economies of the residents who call the Buffalo their home," they add.


    If you appreciate the river and music, 13 groups will spend the afternoon and evening of April 22 celebrating the Buffalo River and speaking on her behalf at the Revolution Music Room on President Clinton Avenue in Little Rock.


    To their credit, every musician has donated their time to the public event.

    So, for those looking for ways to support the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance (and I've seen there are thousands of you), mark it on your calendar as one good way to show your concern for a donation while enjoying a continuous stream of live music from 2 to 8:30 p.m.


    Because the alliance operates on donations (unlike the deep pockets of special interests, believe it or not, to keep at least one hog factory in the Buffalo watershed) those who can't make either event yet want to help protect and preserve the river can send a tax-deductible contribution to the BRWA, P.O. Box 101, Jasper, Ark. 72641.

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

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

    Editorial on 04/03/2018

  • 27 Mar 2018 8:32 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Arkansasonline


    MIKE MASTERSON: A needless law
    Act 10 redundant
    By Mike Masterson

    Our new state law, Act 10 of the Second Extraordinary Session of 2018, which limits when the public can comment on permits previously issued to farms (animal factories), wasn't necessary because it needlessly codified existing Department of Environmental Quality regulations.


    A proposed bill (floated before Act 10 was passed) had been actively pushed by the Farm Bureau soon after the agency denied the controversial C&H Hog Farms a revised permit to continue operating in the karst-riddled Buffalo National River watershed. That piece of special legislation wisely was rejected.


    While some legislators insist its unnecessary act doesn't directly pertain to C&H, it does limit the public's ability to officially express views about such meat-producing factories once our state awards a Regulation 5 operating permit, even though such restrictions already were in force.


    In plainest English, nothing significant has changed. Meanwhile, C&H's denied application for a Regulation 5 permit is pending appeal.


    I asked Gordon Watkins, head of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, for his thoughts.
    "While I commend legislators who voted no on Act 10, I'm trying to gain a better understanding of reasons why someone would vote 'present,' or 'excused' as their conviction on such an important matter," he said.


    Was this lawmaking exercise simply a diluted effort to pacify the politically influential Farm Bureau whose original bill (shepherded by Rep. DeAnn Vaught) somehow aimed toward protecting C&H? Some believe so. Legislators who voted against Act 10 must have realized that it, because of its obvious timing and content, was spurred by the C&H matter and overtly suppressive of the public's ability to address relevant concerns even after an official comment period closed.


    "As we well know after over its five years of operation, because we did not comment when C&H was first issued its permit (due to ADEQ's practically non-existent public notice) under existing regulations," Watkins continued, "we were repeatedly denied the right to challenge anything other than occasional (Reg. 6) permit modifications. Act 10 just restates that fact as law. It was only when C&H applied for an entirely new (Reg. 5) permit, finally triggering a fresh public comment period after five years, that we finally were able to address the full extent of the permit.


    "What's concerning to me is that the new law now codifies suppression of the public's right to challenge a permit that may be causing damage because of siting or location issues. For instance, let's say years after a permit is issued, something changes that reveals a problem. Perhaps new technology emerges, enabling better detection of environmental impacts.


    Maybe geological features are found which pose a risk unknown when the permit was issued. ... This act makes it impossible to address those problems through official public comments. One would expect ADEQ to step in if violations occur. But excuse me if I lack full faith and confidence in ADEQ's willingness to properly address permit problems. As we've seen with C&H, it took the public to convince ADEQ to deny the revised permit application."


    Watkins said Act 10 was vastly different from the initial Vaught draft bill, much to the disappointment of its special-interest sponsors. "But, as reported, [the lawmakers] had to do something to assuage concerns of bankers and permit holders who had been unduly stirred up by Farm Bureau. I'm sure the change was due to public outcry over the initial overruled attempt to craft legislation that would protect C&H. That was something cooler heads understood was unconstitutional and would be successfully challenged in court.
    "Mostly I think Act 10 is a waste of the Legislature's time and taxpayers' money. At least a handful could see that and voted against it."


    Attorney Richard Mays of Heber Springs, who represents the watershed alliance, said legislators opposing the act apparently took time to read it and exercise their own judgment rather than relying solely on the representations of the bill's sponsors.


    Because so many Arkansans are concerned for the welfare and future of our first national river and the insistence of our compliant Legislature to enact even a needless law, I decided to list and salute those with the moxie not to support Act 10, as well as those not voting or voting "present."


    Senators against: Will Bond, Linda Chesterfield, Joyce Elliott, Keith Ingram, Uvalde Lindsey and David Sanders. Not voting: Eddie Cheatham, Jonathan Dismang, Missy Irvin and Bryan King. Excused from voting: Stephanie Flowers and Gary Stubblefield (the bill's Senate sponsor).


    Representatives against: Eddie Armstrong, Andy Davis, Greg Leding, Rebecca Petty, Warwick Sabin and David Whitaker. Not voting: Charlie Collins, Joe Farrer, Vivian Flowers, Michael John Gray, Tim Lemons, Reginald Murdock and John Walker. Voting present: Fred Allen, Stephen Meeks, Clarke Tucker, Charles Blake, Milton Nicks Jr., Monte Hodges, Clint Penzo, Fredrick Love, Laurie Rushing, Stephen Magie, George McGill, James Sorvillo and James Sturch.


    I'd suffer through with an excruciating hangnail rather than be excused, vote present or not even vote on a matter as important as being on record protecting Arkansas' golden goose.
    ------------v------------
    Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.
    Editorial on 03/27/2018

  • 25 Mar 2018 11:43 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Environment notebook


    Hog farm allowedmore time for plan


    Owners of a medium-size hog farm in Newton County that was taken to court last year by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality have until July 1 to finish clearing their stacking barns and submit a nutrient management plan, a judge ordered this month.


    Patrick and Starlinda Sanders, owners of Sanders Farms just west of Western Grove, were previously ordered to submit a nutrient management plan for the hog manure and to clean up the barns by March 15.


    By the end of February, they had submitted a temporary nutrient management plan, according to court filings. On March 1, the Sanderses asked for more time to complete a plan and to remove manure from their stacking sheds.


    A week later, Boone County Circuit Judge Gail Inman-Campbell granted the request and set a trial for 10 a.m. July 19.


    Sanders Farm, home to about 2,400 hogs, is operating without a permit in the Buffalo River watershed, but the owners are attempting to use a dry litter manure management system, which does not require a permit. Issues with hog overcrowding led to manure runoff from the farm last year, prompting the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to ask the court to shut it down, which the court declined to do.



  • 21 Mar 2018 7:35 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Eureka Springs Independent


    Feeding the world’ at the peril of the food chain

    March 21, 2018


    For those feeling helpless and hopeless about the special interests that seem to have taken over our democracy, remember the right to vote continues to be our best and most effective weapon. To make your vote count, be an informed citizen, willing to dig deeper than sound bites and scare tactics. Learn to ask the questions that uncover the real motives lurking behind the blather.

    Advocates for the Buffalo River recently had the experience of lobbying our state representatives and senators at the capitol in Little Rock. We spoke with just about anyone willing to come out and listen to what we had to say. Some forcefully asserted they had made their minds up about the issue, confident that Farm Bureau and the U of A Big Creek Research Extension Team (BCRET), one supported by corporate agricultural interests, the other paid with tax dollars to “prove the sustainability of an industrial hog operation in the Buffalo River watershed,” had told them all they needed to know.

    But other lawmakers expressed skepticism, acknowledging that they were feeling pressure from moneyed interests. Quite a few of them actually thanked us for coming to intervene for the river. They understood us when we said we were there to represent the river because the river could not come to them. As concerned citizens, our motivation is to protect a shared resource that was set aside more than 50 years ago to be enjoyed by all Americans, past, present and future. As a National Park, the Buffalo River should enjoy the most stringent of protections. But every generation must learn greed never sleeps, and the forces of self-interest will find ways to work around the best of defenses if we are not constantly vigilant.

    BCRET spokesmen had the privilege of coming before the entire House of Representatives to report there was “no evidence of degradation” in Big Creek or the Buffalo River. Yet independent scientists, using the raw data (formerly) posted on BCRET’s website, found nitrogen levels increased below C&H Hog Farms by 150%.  Data compiled by United States Geological Survey water monitoring, showed dissolved oxygen in Big Creek, the stuff fish and other aquatic creatures depend on to live, dropped below acceptable levels in 33% percent of tests, surpassing the 10% threshold to receive the designation of an impaired waterway. How had BCRET missed these trends? Apparently by not evaluating or analyzing any data that appeared to be problematic. If you don’t look, you can’t see, and you can then make claims that are “true.”

    The environmental damages being seen where concentrated animal feeding operations proliferate are undeniable. To believe you can do the same thing over and over and get different results is the definition of insanity. Sooner or later, as was the case with cigarettes or Oxycontin, the truth will reveal itself. The only question is how bad the damage will get before that happens.

    The Louisiana Thrush, also called the “Bobber Bird,” relies on clean water to eat, because stoneflies and caddo flies die off when their habitat is damaged. Mussels and other sensitive forms of life quietly vanish where once they thrived. That’s the nature of degradation. It’s a quiet and stealthy killer, a creeping catastrophe that will be denied and dismissed until it is finally too late.

    Who will fight for a waterway clogged with algae or choked with dead fish?

    Want to learn more about industrial agriculture and what the oft-cited claim, “We’re just trying to feed the world” is really costing us? Please mark your calendar and attend “What’s Next for our Buffalo River?” Saturday, April 7 from 6 – 8 p.m. at Mount Sequoyah Assembly Bailey Center in Fayetteville.

    Gordon Watkins will provide an update on efforts to protect the Buffalo River, then participate in a panel discussion with national experts from the Waterkeepers Alliance Pure Water, Pure Farms Initiative, and EarthJustice, as well as Socially Responsible Agricultural Project. The more we all understand about the corporate take-over of American food systems, the more effective we will be in choosing who we want making the laws that protect our web of life. This is a free program.

    Lin Wellford

  • 20 Mar 2018 9:18 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Harrison Daily Times


    Marion County JPS table resolution supporting hog farm


    By GEORGE HOLCOMB news@harrisondaily.com 

    • Mar 20, 2018 


    YELLVILLE — The Marion County Quorum Court discussed a resolution supporting C&H Hog Farm in Newton County. The justices decided to table the question for further study, and will revisit the issue in April.

    The court considered a resolution pledging their support for the hog farm, six miles up a tributary of the Buffalo River. The resolution was referred from the Newton County Quorum Court, which adopted it in February.

    C&H has a troubled history. In August 2012, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) issued a permit for C&H to house and feed up to 2,500 sows and 4,000 piglets at its property near Mt. Judea. In October 2016 that permit expired, six months after C&H applied for a new, updated permit.

    The new permit application was pending for nearly two years before ADEQ denied it, citing a lack of critical supporting documentation, such as “the requisite geological, geotechnical, groundwater, soils, structural, and testing information.” The expiration of the old permit and denial of the new one left C&H in a vulnerable spot, operating under the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission’s decision not to shut them down until their appeal has been decided.

    Representatives of at least half a dozen environmental watchdog groups were there to argue against the resolution. They said:

    • It was being sought in order to help pressure state government to subvert the ADEQ ruling.

    • It was only a matter of time before a failure in the farm’s pollution control mechanisms creates a disaster on the Buffalo.

    • Some scientific data indicate an already existing level of failure that imperils the Buffalo even without a catastrophe.

    • The multinational corporation that owns the pigs are raising them here for consumption in China, leaving area residents to deal with the mess.

    • The language of the resolution itself contained errors and gratuitous attacks on both state and federal government, and called for “cessation of the unwarranted federal and state governmental interference with the C&H Hog Farm.”

    After these points had been argued, Marion County Judge Terry Ott offered the operators of C&H equal time to respond. Jason Henson, one of the partners in the business, rose and offered these points in rebuttal:

    • The farm’s operators have taken on huge debt (nearly $4 million) to make this venture work.

    • They have done everything they were required to do and provided all the documentation they were asked to provide.

    • The farm has been operating four years without being cited for a violation. In fact, Henson said after the Environmental Protection Agency studied the operation for three days in 2015, they said it was the best operation of its type they had seen.

    MORE FROM THIS SE

    • It is a family farm. Of the nine people who work there, eight are family members.

    • All the data offered by their opponents is suspect and cherry-picked; pigs don’t produce nearly as much waste as they say, most of the pigs on the place are juveniles, nitrate concentrations are always greater the farther downstream you go.

    “If they can jerk a properly obtained permit out from under our compliant operation,” Henson concluded, “they can do the same thing to you.”

    Justices Brady Madden, Joyce McCalla and Carl McBee all expressed the opinion that this was not really something the Marion County Quorum Court should be addressing.

    “I am not comfortable with this resolution,” said McBee. “Maybe this is not our place.”

    McBee suggested scheduling a public hearing, once the JPs have had time to review and understand the data, and tabling the resolution for later consideration.

    The motion to table passed with Justices Mike Scrima, Nicholas Nugent, Gregg Alexander, McBee, Wesley Shipman, and McCalla in favor and Raymond Mayo, Madden, and Claudia Brigham against.

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