Buffalo River 
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  • 27 Feb 2014 10:17 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Hog farm foes: Map flawed, redo permit
    By Ryan McGeeney
    Posted: February 21, 2014 at 5:24 a.m.
     

    A coalition of environmentalists and lawyers is asking the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to reopen the permitting process for a Newton County hog farm because of discrepancies in the farm’s original permit application.

    In a Feb. 12 letter to the department, lawyers with Earthjustice, a nonprofit litigation firm, claim the owners of C&H Hog Farms in Mount Judea intentionally misrepresented the location and available acreage of several grassland fields on which they plan to spread manure.

    The hog farm, a large-scale concentrated animal feeding operation, is permitted to house approximately 2,500 adult sows and as many as 4,000 piglets at one time. According to the farm’s nutrient management plan, which outlines how its operators will handle the estimated 2 million gallons of waste annually, the owners lease or own approximately 630 acres of grassland in Mount Judea, separated into 17 fields.


     

    The farm abuts Big Creek, 6 miles upstream from its confluence with the Buffalo National River.

    According to the let-ter, the farm owners falsely claimed that they had a land use agreement with the owner of an area labeled “Field 5,” an approximately 24-acre tract belonging to Tommie Wheeler of Vendor, according to Newton County deed records cited by Earthjustice.

    The farm’s nutrient-management plan includes signed land-use agreements with several landowners, using both narrative descriptions and latitude and longitude coordinates to identify the fields. Although the contract that identifies “Field 5” includes coordinates that describe Wheeler’s property, it is signed by Shawn Ricketts. Jason Henson, who co-owns C&H Hog Farms with two of his cousins, Richard and Philip Campbell, said Ricketts is a nephew of Richard and Philip Campbell.

    “It was a typographical error,” Henson said. “I have the land-use agreements and the soil sample from the actual land, but when the engineers drew up the maps, the fields were misprinted on the map sheet.”

    Attempts to reach Wheeler and Ricketts for comment were unsuccessful.

    In their letter to the Environmental Quality Department, Earthjustice lawyers also cite discrepancies in portions of two other tracts, fields 12 and 16, which account for more than 100 acres. While the farm’s land-use agreements for those fields are signed by Barbara Hufley, approximately 34 acres within those fields are owned by other landowners with whom the hog farm owners do not have land-use contracts.

    During a Jan. 23 compliance inspection of the hog farm, a department inspector noted the discrepancy in fields 12 and 16. In a Feb. 6 reply to the department, Henson acknowledged the discrepancy, writing that a certified nutrient management planner was revising the maps for fields 12 and 16, and the corrected maps would be submitted by March 30. The discrepancies in the two fields account for about 34 acres, or about 5 percent,of the 630 acres.

    Robert Cross, president of the Ozark Society and a signatory to the Earthjustice letter, said that regardless of the revisions the farm owners are now making, the fact that the department granted a permit based on inaccurate information means the permitting process should be revisited.

    “We think the whole permit should be reopened,” Cross said, noting that when Henson and his partners first applied for the general permit, they largely avoided public scrutiny because it was the first of its kind in the state. “In August 2012, there was a public comment period, which no one commented on, because no one knew anything about it.”

    Teresa Marks, director of the Environmental Quality Department, said she and her staff had reviewed the letter from Earthjustice, as well as documentation associated with C&H Hog Farms. She said that while the total acreage available for spreading manure would need to be recalculated, there still appeared to be sufficient acreage on which to spread the farm’s manure. Additionally, Marks said the farm operators had not applied manure to any of the areas in dispute and so were not in violation of the terms of their permit.

    Earthjustice lawyers also asserted that the inaccuracies in the farm’s mapping have led to a waste of taxpayer money. In September, the state Legislature appropriated about $340,000 from the Arkansas Rainy Day Fund to pay for a longitudinal study of the water and soil in the area surrounding the hog farm. The proposed study came in response to widespread concern that nutrients from the farm’s hog waste could pollute both groundwater and surface water in the area and reach the Buffalo National River.

    Shortly after the study funds were appropriated, University of Arkansas professor of soils and water quality Andrew Sharpley and his research team began contacting landowners in Mount Judea, asking for permission to gather soil and water samples on land that is scheduled to receive manure from the hog farm.

    Sharpley and his team settled on three sites to conduct their research, fields 1, 5 and 12, which include two of the three fields identified by department inspectors as being incorrectly mapped on the farm’s nutrient-management plan.

    In a Feb. 8 letter to Sharpley, the owners of the three properties in question, fields 5, 12 and 16, emphasized that they do not have land-use agreements with C&H Hog Farms and have not granted permission to Sharpley to enter their property or conduct research there. The letter is signed by Wheeler, Ronnie Campbell and Samuel Dye.

    Campbell’s wife, Judy Campbell, confirmed byphone that she and her husband had been approached by representatives of C&H Hog Farms about the possible use of their land for application of hog waste and that they had declined. Attempts to reach Dye were unsuccessful.

    Sharpley said he had been aware of the mapping discrepancies for some time, and neither he nor members of his research team had trespassed on any of the fields in question.

    On Feb. 7, the Big Creek Research Team released its first quarterly report, outlining its research methods and plans for future research. The report includes a map of the 630 acres identified in the hog farm’s nutrient-management plan, with fields 1, 5 and 12 highlighted. Although the “Field 5” highlighted in the report’s map is Wheeler’s property, Sharpley said his researchers were working on the adjacent Ricketts property, for which Henson has a land-use agreement.

    “I elected to use the old maps in the permit for the quarterly report. That’s where the misunderstanding originated,” Sharpley said. “The fact is, we haven’t been on those fields mentioned in the letter. We’ll never be on any property we don’t have prior, expressed permission to be on.”

    Sharpley said that in the early stages of his research, he realized that the existing map in the nutrient-management plan - the same map that eventually appeared in his team’s quarterly report - was incorrect, but he felt it was outside the scope of his responsibilities to publicly call attention to the discrepancy.

    “I chose at that time not to raise the issue,” Sharpley said. “I’m there to do the science. I felt [the map] was somebody else’s issue. I continued to talk about what we were actually doing and the science in the report. In hindsight, it would’ve been better to redo the report with the correct map.”

    Monica Reimer, a Florida-based lawyer with Earthjustice, said even if Sharpley is gathering water and soil samples on the Ricketts field, the research is a waste of time because C&H Hog Farms will likely never spread manure there.

    “The whole point of spending the taxpayers’ money was to determine the risk of pollution or environmental harm that was being caused by C&H,” Reimer said. “So instead, what’s happening is, they’re looking at fields that aren’t part of C&H, or they’re doing all this work on a field that is not in C&H’s [nutrient-management plan].

    “It seems like there’s this train wreck of things that are happening as a consequence of the misrepresentation that took place at the very beginning,” Reimer said. “And no one seems to be interested in trying to resolve [these problems].”

    Marks said that changes to the hog farm’s nutrient management-plan map constitute only minor revisions that are not cause to reopen the permit for public comment. However, Henson and his partners have applied to the department to change the method of manure application on several of the grasslands within the plan, constituting a “major modification,” which does allow for public input.

    Wednesday, the department announced that the public hearing for the modification is scheduled for March 24 at 6 p.m. at the Jasper School District cafetorium at 600 School St. in Jasper.

    Marks said she and her staff expect to get strong feedback during the public comment period, although she stipulated that public comment will only be allowed on the portion of the permit being modified, not on the entire permit. The department began accepting written public comments on the modification Wednesday.The comment period will remain open until 4:30 p.m. March 24.

    Henson said he himself had requested the public hearing for his farm’s proposed modification.

    “They’re trying to ruin my name now, but the truth is, we have nothing to hide,” Henson said. “I’m the one who asked for the public hearing. I don’t want them coming back to say ‘we didn’t know.’”

    Front Section, Pages 1 on 02/21/2014

     
  • 23 Feb 2014 4:40 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    A bipartisan plea
     
    By Mike Masterson
    This article was published today at 3:07 a.m. Arkansas Democrat Gazette

     
    You likely haven’t read the bipartisan op-ed co-bylined by former U.S. Reps. Ed Bethune, a Republican, and Democrat Vic Snyder. They spell out the obvious need for our state to revoke the permit for the Cargill-sponsored hog factory that the state Department of Environmental Quality (cough) inexcusably permitted in the treasured Buffalo National River watershed.

    Their piece, published by The Hill newspaper in Washington, is an account from two men who served Arkansas’ 2nd Congressional District. Bethune held the office from 1979 to 1985, Snyder from 1997 until 2011.

    The politically oriented Hill publishes daily while Congress is in session. I’m convinced the space I’m allotted sometimes is best filled by the opinions of others with whom I (and many others) agree. So their story (edited for space) follows:

    “In 1972, something miraculous by today’s standards happened in Congress. A Republican [Rep. John Paul Hammerschmidt of Harrison], working with Democratic colleagues, passed legislation that was then signed by a Republican president. The bipartisan effort created the Buffalo National River, America’s first. …

    “Saved once from harm, the Buffalo faces a new and impending pollution problem-a poorly placed industrial hog farm-that will likely change the nature of this magnificent river.

    “The Buffalo is an ecological jewel that meanders 135 miles through the heart of the Ozark Mountains. When this free-flowing stream of pristine waters, carved bluffs, and dramatic waterfalls became part of the National Park System it was to be spared from dams and development-or so we thought.

    “Just a few miles away, on a major tributary of the Buffalo, a factory farm of 6,500 pigs is now operating. The animals are owned by international conglomerate Cargill and raised by a local group called C&H Hog Farms. The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) granted the permit without public hearings or even putting a public notice in a newspaper. Not even the National Park Service, the agency charged with protecting the Buffalo, was consulted.

    “How did this happen? It was a combination of failed leadership among multiple agencies and a political culture that favors Big Ag.

    “There have been pig farmers in the Buffalo River watershed in the past. But these were mom and pop operations with a hundred or so head. Such farmers are becoming extinct, being put out of business and replaced by industrial farms, not just in Arkansas but across America. Agriculture is an important part of our state’s economy. But locating a factory hog farm next to a national treasure is irresponsible and the damage to our billion-dollar tourism industry will be irreversible.

    “The pigs at C&H Farms will generate as much fecal matter and urine as a city of 35,000 people. The 2 million gallons of waste per year is being flushed untreated into lagoons and then spread over hay fields. When the rains come, the runoff will flow into Big Creek and then into the Buffalo River downstream.

    “But runoff is not the only problem. The Ozarks consist of porous limestone rock called Karst geology. Anything placed on the land leaches through the fissures and into the underground water system. The Buffalo National River is being threatened from above and below. And then there are the noxious fumes that residents and school children of the community of Mount Judea, Ark., must endure. The state’s response so far has been to set aside money to monitor the amount of water pollution. All that means is that we Arkansans will be the first to tell the world that “hog doin’s” have found their way into our precious Buffalo River.

    “What are the chances of water pollution from this factory hog farm? Nationally known Arkansas hydrologist Dr. Van Brahana, who is studying the region’s hydrology, says that there is a 95 percent probability rate. Even ADEQ Director Teresa Marks admitted in a recent New York Times article that pollution was certain. There are many places suitable for a factory hog farm, but the watershed of a national river is not one of them. The feces and urine from the hogs create a toxic brew of pollutants. It threatens the Buffalo’s unique ecosystem and endangers the health of local residents and park visitors.

    “The Buffalo is the crown jewel of The Natural State and an intricate part of the Ozark heritage, but it belongs to all Americans. It is one of the few unspoiled environments in America-a timeless, spiritual haven. … It is also an economic engine generating more than $38 million and 528 jobs in one of the poorer areas of the state. Compare those numbers to the five or so low-paying jobs provided by the factory hog farm.

    “More than 40 years ago, a disparate group of visionaries formed an alliance to create America’s first national river. … Now a coalition of local and national groups is trying to save it again. We, as former Arkansas congressmen from different sides of the aisle, are joining that fight. The permit must be revoked and the factory hog farm moved from its current location. We understand that factory farmers have a right to make a living, but not at the expense of a national river and the surrounding community.”All I can add is, “Amen, congressmen.” Oh, and suppose you might pass the bacon?
  • 19 Feb 2014 10:55 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Errors in Mt. Judea farm's permit draw criticism
    But no manure spread in wrong area, ADEQ says.
    by David Ramsey
     
    C&H Hog Farm, located in the Buffalo National River watershed and the first facility in the state to get a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) permit, continues to stir controversy amid fears from conservationist groups that the farm poses environmental risks.

    Its permit allows C&H to house 6,503 hogs, which belong to Cargill, by revenue the largest privately held company in the nation and the sole customer for C&H. Last September, the legislature approved the expenditure of $340,510 in state funds to implement pollution testing and monitoring by a team of University of Arkansas water and soil experts at the Mt. Judea farm, which is in close proximity to a major tributary of the Buffalo River. (Should the legislature approve it, testing in future years would cost around $100,000 annually.)

    A coalition of public interest groups undefined including the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, the National Parks Conservation Association and the Ozark Society undefined has been sharply critical of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality's oversight of the state permitting process. The groups also filed suit last August against the federal agencies that backed C&H's loan guarantee, over alleged problems with the environmental assessment and public notice requirements. The latest complaint from the coalition involves errors in the nutrient management plan (NMP) for spreading hog waste as fertilizer, submitted by C&H as part of its permitting process and approved by ADEQ.

    The coalition wrote a letter to ADEQ last week suggesting that these errors in the NMP undefined incorrectly mapping three of the 17 fields used by the farm for spreading hog waste undefined may have led the state-funded pollution monitoring to take place on the wrong fields.

    In fact, according to Andrew Sharpley, the soil scientist leading the C&H monitoring project, the UA team became aware of the errors before the testing and only tested in the proper areas. However, the coalition believes that the errors in the plan continue a pattern of mistakes, omissions and flaws in the regulatory process and should prompt ADEQ to reopen the permitting process.

    ADEQ first discovered the mapping errors when officials did their first inspections of the site in July and again in January. Most of the fields that C&H uses to spray waste as fertilizer are owned by local farmers and leased to C&H. In the permit's NMP, two of the fields undefined Field 12 and Field 16 undefined had erroneous borders that included small portions of land that had not been leased to C&H. Another field, Field 5, was in the wrong location entirely.

    The agency sent C&H letters informing the farmers of the errors; C&H responded by acknowledging the mistakes and stating that they would revise the map as requested by ADEQ.

    ADEQ Director Teresa Marks said that the hog farm had not spread manure on any of the areas that are not owned or being leased by C&H. They have also not spread manure on the proper Field 5 that is being leased by C&H, because that field is not correctly included in the NMP, which instead incorrectly listed land not leased by C&H as Field 5.

    "They will not land-apply on that field until the discrepancy is resolved," Marks said. She said that there was no hard and fast timeline for C&H to make the necessary corrections. "It'll be a minor revision," she said. "We don't feel as if the mistakes that were made in the permit, at this point ... are something that we're going to call in the whole NMP over. Especially since there's been no harm caused undefined there's been no spreading on those fields that was not appropriate. We want it to be corrected, but there has been no unlawful spreading at this point."

    Hannah Chang, an attorney with EarthJustice, a California-based environmental law firm that is part of the legal team representing the coalition, sharply disagreed with Marks' assessment.

    "If they want to add this new Field 5 ... that's north of the current Field 5, that is not in the NMP," Chang said. "It's not even in the picture. That's a substantial change under their general permit. So they need to get public notice and comment and follow an actually transparent process that involves the public, everything that didn't happen in the first place."

    Further confusing matters, the first quarterly report from the UA testing team used the incorrect maps from the NMP, leading the coalition to believe that the scientists had tested the wrong areas altogether, and causing alarm among some landowners that their property undefined not leased to C&H undefined had been tested without their permission. These Mt. Judea landowners sent a letter to the UA research team expressing their concern.

    Sharpley, the scientist heading the testing, said that he didn't correct the maps on the quarterly report because UA's role, by design, is supposed to be completely independent of both state agencies and the relevant stakeholders.

    "The fields were improperly designated," Sharpley said. "We knew those fields were mapped wrong ... before we did any testing. We've been monitoring the fields that we have permission to monitor, the fields that were permitted to receive manure."

    Since the errors in the NMP were a matter to be resolved between ADEQ and C&H, Sharpley didn't think it was his place to highlight the errors in his quarterly report. "In hindsight, I would have done things differently," he said. "It's a lot of confusion, and it's unfortunate."

    Regarding the concerned landowners, Sharpley said that the UA group did not do testing on any land not leased to C&H. The scientists did test on the field leased to C&H but not correctly labeled in the NMP. Though C&H cannot spread on that field until the NMP is corrected, Sharpley and ADEQ said that this testing would be useful in establishing a baseline for future monitoring.

    "If there is a clarification that makes this all make sense, we're happy to know it," Chang said. "If the UA study could be revised in a way that actually tests the land that will be receiving impacts from C&H waste, then all the better."

    But, Chang said, these problems don't inspire confidence in the NMP or the regulatory process. "These misrepresentations confirm the fact that it really did fly under the radar and that there just wasn't a careful eye to this application," she said. "The fact that these misrepresentations took place are reason enough to reopen the whole permit. It's not just reopening it with respect to this field, but with respect to the entire permit because the permit was applied for and approved based on information that was not fully disclosed. Under the regulations, that's plenty of grounds for ADEQ to reopen it and at least get public comment."

    Gov. Mike Beebe's spokesperson Matt DeCample said that the important point was that "they tested the fields where the nutrients were being spread. They didn't miss any of those fields.

    "There's no bad news [in the first report], which is great. But to really allay concerns, it's going to take more than the first round of tests, and we know that. We have confidence in the process and the science."

  • 18 Feb 2014 2:13 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Renew moratorium

    By Mike Masterson
    Posted: February 18, 2014 at 2:34 a.m.
     

    I’ve happened across a copy of our state’s 1992 moratorium that forbade discharging animal waste into the watershed of the Buffalo National River.

    The document makes for interesting reading and leaves me wondering just what about preserving the purity of our national treasure has changed in 22 years. After seeing how determined our state was then to protect this cherished resource, I became curious just when and why it became acceptable to risk contaminating this magnificent stream with waste from thousands of hogs.

    And why is it, valued readers, that taxpayers now pay an expensive tab so our national river can be put at risk for private gain?

    The 1990s clearly were the rational years before the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (chuckle) assumed accountability from what for decades had been officially known as the Department of Pollution Control and Ecology (or PC&E).

    The official wording from the moratorium enacted by former PC&E Director Randall Mathis allows you to decide for yourself whether that era truly constituted the good old days of controlling and managing pollution in the Natural State’s environment.

    I can’t find anyone who recalls just when, or why, the moratorium was lifted after Mathis departed his position. And why would it ever have been removed? I strongly suspect removing those safeguards involved special-interest groups, arm-twisting, and perhaps campaign contributions to those elected to lead. Isn’t that the perverted process of undue influences we’ve come to accept as government of, by and for the people?

    Here’s exactly what Mathis’ mysteriously scrapped moratorium said about preserving the river’s pristine quality:

    “During the pendency of the surveys and [water quality] studies described the department will not issue any new permits for new sources to discharge waste into any stream in the Buffalo River watershed. Nor will the department issue no-discharge permits for any facility or activity which would generate waste that could potentially impact the water quality of the river or its tributaries.

    “The Department will perform surveys and inspections of all existing facilities within PC&E’s regulatory jurisdiction located in the Buffalo River basin. The purpose of these studies will be to catalog and assess what impact existing facilities may have on the Buffalo or its tributaries. Operators of confined animal facilities permitted by PC&E are strongly urged to consult with representatives from the Cooperative Extension Service to review the requirements of their permits and how their operations may be improved.

    “A person subject to the regulatory jurisdiction of the Department shall cooperate with the survey and studies described in this Administrative notice, which includes allowing reasonable site access to Department personnel conducting inspections, collecting water samples and placing monitoring wells or other testing devices. Nothing in this notice shall preclude the Department from taking any form of enforcement action deemed appropriate to prevent or abate pollution of the Buffalo River watershed.”

    In a “Notice of Findings” within the moratorium, our former PC&E chief further explained why restrictions had become necessary: “The Buffalo River is one of the state’s and nation’s treasures. The Buffalo was the first stream to be designated as a National River. Arkansas Water Quality Standards classify the Buffalo as a Natural and Scenic Waterway and an Extraordinary Resource Water. … Water quality [regulation] standards directs the Department to protect such high quality waters using, among other means, pursuit of land management protective of the watershed.

    “In general, the water quality of the Buffalo is excellent. Recent data, however, indicates impairment of aquatic biota in tributaries to the Buffalo which could reasonably be expected to affect the Buffalo in the future if the cause is not discovered and abated.”

    I’m willing to bet that if Mathis was still heading this agency, his moratorium would remain in effect. He also would have known well in advance of any plans by a major corporation such as Cargill to supply and sponsor a hog factory with up to 6,500 swine on a major tributary of the Buffalo.

    With an environmentally protective and aware leader like Mathis in place, there’s no way he wouldn’t have learned a potential polluter was being permitted by his very own agency until after it was a done deal. Under Mathis, departmental heads would have rolled over that.

    Mathis would have insisted the National Park Service and other affected agencies, as well as the public, received ample notice of this wrongheaded plan well before any permit for a hog factory was issued here.

    And I can’t help but believe that before the notion of locating such a mega-waste producer in the Buffalo River watershed was even entertained, he would have insisted that Cargill and the politically involved local family who got the permit pay for extensive water quality and subsurface flow tests of the karst-riddled ground that pervades the river basin.

    Finally, I strongly suspect Mathis then would have ruled out such a stunningly inappropriate location altogether. Don’t you?

  • 16 Feb 2014 8:16 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Pig farm threatens Buffalo River
     
    By Former Reps. Ed Bethune (R-Ark.) and Vic Snyder 
(D-Ark.) - 02/12/14 06:03 PM EST

    In 1972, something miraculous happened in Congress undefined at least by today’s standards. A Republican, working with Democratic colleagues, passed legislation that was then signed by a Republican president.

    The bipartisan effort created the Buffalo National River, America’s first, establishing a precedent. Since then another four rivers have been added to the list and placed under the stewardship of the National Park Service.

    We must protect these treasures. Several aging sewage plants currently threaten the New River in West Virginia, and the Big South Fork in Kentucky faces issues with acid draining from coal mines.

    This brings us to Arkansas’s Buffalo, where it all began. Saved once from harm, the Buffalo faces a new and impending pollution problem undefined a poorly placed industrial hog farm undefined that will likely change the nature of this magnificent river.

    The Buffalo is an ecological jewel that meanders 135 miles through the heart of the Ozark Mountains. When this free-flowing stream of pristine waters, carved bluffs, and dramatic waterfalls became part of the National Park System it was to be spared from dams and development undefined or so we thought.

    Just a few miles away, on a major tributary of the Buffalo, a factory farm of 6,500 pigs is now in operation. The animals are owned by international conglomerate Cargill and raised by a local group called C & H Hog Farms. The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) granted the permit without public hearings or even putting a public notice in a newspaper. Not even the National Park Service, the agency charged with protecting the Buffalo, was consulted. How did this happen? It was a combination of failed leadership among multiple agencies and a political culture that favors Big AG.

    There have been pig farmers in the Buffalo River watershed in the past. But these were mom and pop operations with a hundred or so head. Such farmers are becoming extinct, being put out of business and replaced by industrial farms, not just in Arkansas but across America. Agriculture is an important part of our state’s economy. But locating a factory hog farm next to a national treasure is irresponsible and the damage to our billion-dollar tourism industry will be irreversible.

    The pigs at C & H Farms will generate as much fecal matter and urine as a city of 35,000 people. The 2 million gallons of waste per year is being flushed untreated into lagoons and then spread over hayfields. When the rains come, the runoff will flow into Big Creek and then into the Buffalo River downstream.

    But runoff is not the only problem. The Ozarks consist of porous limestone rock called Karst geology. Anything placed on the land leaches through the fissures and into the underground water system. The Buffalo National River is being threatened from above and from below. And then there are the noxious fumes that residents and school children of the community of Mt. Judea, Ark., must endure. The state’s response so far has been to set aside money to monitor the amount of water pollution. All that means is that we Arkansans will be the first to tell the world that “hog doin’s” have found their way into our precious Buffalo River.

    What are the chances of water pollution from this factory hog farm? Nationally known hydrologist Dr. Van Brahana, who is studying the region’s hydrology, says that there is a 95 percent probability rate. Even ADEQ Director Teresa Marks admitted in a recent New York Times article that pollution was certain. There are many places suitable for a factory hog farm, but the watershed of a national river is not one of them. The feces and urine from the hogs create a toxic brew of pollutants. It threatens the Buffalo’s unique eco-system and endangers the health of local residents and park visitors.

    The Buffalo is the crown jewel of The Natural State and an intricate part of the Ozark heritage, but it belongs to all Americans.

    Each year, more than a million people from around the country hike, camp, fish, and canoe in and around the river. It is one of the few unspoiled environments in America undefined a timeless, spiritual haven.

    It is also an economic engine generating more than 38 million dollars and 528 jobs in one of the poorer areas of the state.

    Compare those numbers to the five or so low paying jobs provided by the factory hog farm.

    More than 40 years ago, a disparate group of visionaries formed an alliance to create America’s first national river. The cause was championed by conservation groups, politicians of all stripes, as well as U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas. Now a coalition of local and national groups is trying to save it undefined again. We, as former Arkansas congressmen from different sides of the aisle, are joining that fight. The permit must be revoked and the factory hog farm moved from its current location. We understand that factory farmers have a right to make a living, but not at the expense of a national river and the surrounding community.

    Bethune represented Arkansas’s 2nd Congressional District from 1979 to 1985. Snyder represented the same district from 1997 to 2011.




     
  • 16 Feb 2014 7:51 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Whose Side Is the American Farm Bureau On?

    The answer: Big Ag.

     Just ask the family farmers who dared to protest an industrial hog farm in Missouri.

    Ian T. Shearn July 16, 2012
     
    Produced in collaboration with the Food & Environment Reporting Network.

    The American Farm Bureau, with its 6 million “member families” and carefully cultivated grassroots image, talks a good game. In the pitched battle over US farm policyundefinedwith agribusiness giants on one side, and small family farmers, organic and local food advocates and environmentalists on the otherundefinedthe Farm Bureau positions itself as the voice of the farmer.

     
    “If you know agriculture in this country, it is dominated by family farms, and those are the people who come to our meetings, those are the people who set our policies,” claims Mark Maslyn, executive director of the American Farm Bureau Federation’s public policy department, a team of twenty-two registered federal lobbyists that spend more than $2 million annually on a variety of agriculture issues.

    But Rolf Christen, a cattle farmer in Missouri who was at one time an enthusiastic member of his local farm bureau’s board, tells a different story.

    Christen realized that the bureau’s “family farmer” talk was cheap when he sought its help battling an industrial scale hog operation with 80,000 animals just up the road from his farm in northern Missouri beginning in 1993. The waste from the facility created a sickening, eye-watering stench that seeped across the land and into the homes of Christen and his neighbors, starting what would be an epic battle against Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) that continues to this day.

    Logo for the Food & Environment Reporting NetworkAt that time, Christen had become the leader of local resistance to the CAFO, then owned by Premium Standard Farms. He organized town meetings and lobbied elected officials to fight Premium Standard. But he hadn’t counted on also fighting his local Farm Bureau, which he had joined as a young farmer in 1983, even getting involved with state legislative issues. When it came to this fight, the Farm Bureau sided with Premium Standard and cut Christen and his small farmer friends loose.

    “All of a sudden laws were changed in the state in order to make it easier for [Premium Standard], and that’s where the Farm Bureau and I quickly parted ways,” said Christen. Then, and to this day, Christen says, the “Farm Bureau has always supported the industry…and not the small farmers.”

    How had this happened? Missouri had become a popular destination for the pork industry. The state produces millions of pigs a year, predominantly for Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer, which purchased Premium Standard in 2007. The rise of the factory farm has been the death knell for the small family farmer in Missouri, as it has across the country. In 1964, there were 62,000 pig farms in Missouri; as of 2007, there were about 3,000, producing roughly the same number of pigs. To these giant hog producers, who depend on the support of the Farm Bureau to keep their efficient model humming, farmers like Christen and their worries about air and water quality are little more than troublemakers.

    Although illustrative, Christen’s case is not unusual. From California to New York, the Farm Bureau leads the charge for industrial-scale food production. It opposes the labeling of genetically engineered food, animal welfare reform and environmental regulation. In Washington, its well-funded team of lobbyists and lawyers seeks to undermine the federal Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act, opposing pesticide restrictions and increased scrutiny of greenhouse gas emissions and pollution from CAFOs, like the “farm” up the road from Christen.

    The Farm Bureau has sued the EPA, which is trying to limit farm runoff from polluting the Chesapeake Bay. At the same time, the Bureau pushes hard to expand international trade and lobbies for the stream of government subsidies that disproportionately benefit the nation’s biggest commodity farm operations and, indirectly, the agribusinesses at the heart of this system.

    In Washington, the 2012 Farm Bill has predictably been a top priority for the Farm Bureau lobby team. They have surprised players from both sides of the debate by conceding cuts in traditional subsidies in exchange for a large expansion of subsidized crop insurance that protects against disasters and falling prices at an estimated cost to taxpayers of $9 billion a year. The tactical, philosophical shift garnered praise even from Farm Bureau adversaries. Nonetheless, it should be noted that crop insurance is a small, but significant piece of Farm Bureau insurance companies’ portfolio. In 2011, they collected over $300 million in crop insurance premiums.

    In rural areas, the Farm Bureau grooms compliant political candidates, mostly Republicans; it wields the power to dictate outcomes of legislative elections and appointments to powerful state agriculture committees. Then it influences which farm-related bills become law. Along the way, it has become a close second to Monsanto in lobby expenditures for agriculture-related issues, spending nearly $6 million in 2011 undefinedall in the name of “farmers.”

    American Farm Bureau Federation president Bob Stallman was succinct, almost militant in his opening address last year at the group’s annual meeting: “We will not stand idly by while opponents of today’s American agriculture…try to drag us down…try to bury us in bureaucratic red tape and costly regulationundefinedand try to destroy the most productive and efficient agricultural system in the world,” he said.

    Stallman could well have been talking about Christen and his neighbors.

    * * *

    Christen has firsthand experience with the underbelly of that efficient system, because hog-raising is a messy business. Although afforded similar status to farms, CAFOs are more like automobile assembly-line factories, where thousands of animals are birthed, nourished with corn and other grains and supplemented with antibiotics and growth-promoting supplements. They are raised in climate-controlled darkness, confined to pens so cramped they cannot turn around. Hogs produce four times the waste of humans, and these CAFOs produce millions of gallons of manure annually. But in cities, human waste ends up at a sewage treatment plant; in CAFOs, untreated livestock waste is flushed out of confinement buildings into large lagoons, sprayed on fields as fertilizer and then too often migrates into streams and groundwater. In Missouri, this waste not only fouls the air; it has made its way into the rivers, streams and groundwater of surrounding communities.

    By 1995, Christen had found two local farmers, Terry Spence and Scott Dye, to join him in his fight. Rebuffed at every turn by the Farm Bureau, elected officials and regulatory agencies, they concluded their only hope was in the courts. So, they went lawyer shopping and found an unlikely candidate in Charlie Speer, a Kansas City attorney, who was once a financial analyst for Ford Motor Company and then represented corporate polluters who had fallen out of favor with the EPA.

    The three men provided Speer with evidence of a litany of infractions by Premium Standard’s operationundefinedbreaches of their lagoons, runoff from spreading manure on the land, burst pipes that sent hog waste flowing into streams, lakes and onto neighboring properties, causing miles of polluted streams and killing fish. Speer would soon discover that Premium Standard operations emit more ammonia and hydrogen sulfide than any other industry in Missouri. Neighboring farmers would later testify about the effects of the ubiquitous odorundefinedburning eyes, noses and throats, gagging, nausea, vomiting and headaches.

    In fact, Smithfield and its subsidiaries have been the subject of numerous environmental enforcement actions by the state and the federal government over water and air pollution caused by their hog production factories. From 1997 to 2004, Smithfield was fined $19 million. Bo Manly, president of Premium Standard at the time and now executive vice president and chief financial officer at Smithfield, admitted in a deposition with Speer that Premium Standard was the most fined agriculture company in Missouri.

    “I quickly learned that the ag industry today is like when I was working at Ford Motor,” Speer said. “It’s cheaper to pay the fines and keep dumping the paint in the creek.”

    With this kind of evidence in hand, Speer initially thought the case was a slam-dunk and easy money. It would be neither. In 1997, Christen and 60 of his neighbors formed the Citizens Legal Environmental Action Network, or CLEAN. With Speer as their counsel, they filed a federal citizens-action suit against Premium Standard alleging improper waste disposal near their homes. In 1999, the US EPA intervened in the suit, joining CLEAN as a co-plaintiff against Premium Standard.

    After the CLEAN suit was filed, Premium Standard spokesman Charlie Arnot weighed in with his view, one that has dominated the national discussion over food: “I think people need to understand that this [CAFO] is part of an ongoing changing structure in agriculture…. It’s a different model than we’ve ever seen before. Is it the right model? Not for everybody. But I think communities that want to continue to sustain a quality rural way of life have to begin to look beyond what we’ve always looked at in the past.”

    Christen and CLEANundefinedfully aware of what that “quality rural way of life” meansundefinedemerged victorious in its lawsuit, leading to a 2002 federal consent decree requiring Smithfield and Premium Standard to clean up its act. But enforcement is still being argued in the courts by both sides, and, Christen says, the air at his house still stinks. “It pisses me off that after fifteen years the company still does not even acknowledge that there is a problem up here,” he says.

    As it turned out, Christen and his friends weren’t an anomaly. Since meeting with the group, Speer has racked up big damage awards on behalf of individual farmers living next to these hog CAFOs throughout Missouri. In 2010, Speer attracted national attention with a record $11 million verdict awarded to fifteen plaintiffs who had been subject to the foul odors emanating from a Premium Standard pig CAFO in northwestern Missouri. In total, Speer has won over $25 million for 101 neighbors of CAFOs in eight “odor nuisance suits,” as they are called.

    To date, Speer has filed nearly 500 odor nuisance complaints in seven states, roughly half in Missouri. In one of Speer’s odor cases, it became evident that the Missouri Farm Bureau had more than a philosophical interest in the issue. A Missouri Farm Bureau insurance affiliate (that’s right, those family farmers at the Farm Bureau have a big hand in the insurance industry) was the carrier for one of the hog producer defendants. It paid $550,000 to settle the case, and also paid the defendant’s legal bills.

    The court battles have become a threat to the bottom line of America’s biggest pork producers. In fact, Smithfield Foods threatened to pull all of its hog operations out of Missouri after Speer’s $11 million judgmentundefinedand that put the issue front and center for the Missouri Farm Bureau.

    In response, the Farm Bureau moved the battlefield to its favored arenaundefinedthe Statehouse floor undefinedwith a bill from a friendly legislator the bureau helped elect. The aim of the bill: to keep all the farmers like Christen from seeking meaningful legal redress against the pollution from CAFO operations.

    In the waning days of the 2011 Missouri legislative session, Senate Bill 187 was signed into law, limiting citizens’ ability to sue large agribusinesses over the harm their factories inflict on neighboring property owners. The Farm Bureau had been pushing various forms of this bill for years, but with a Republican surge in the 2010 legislative elections and a new crop of freshman legislators, it finally passed. Though its sponsors spun the bill as protection for family farmers, it was, in reality, exactly the opposite. Senate Bill 187 limits the number of times a farmer can sue and caps damages at property value, which of course have decreased after the CAFOs moved in.

    Despite its track record, the Farm Bureau insists it has been and always will be the champion of the small farmer and rural America. To those who claim the Farm Bureau has sided squarely with one side, against the interests of many farmers, the Bureau’s Maslyn responds, “I’d say they’ve never been to one of our meetings.”

    Christen takes issue, as do a growing number of small farmers: “The point is, operators that raise hundreds of thousands of animals in confinement are ‘industrial operations’ and need to be regulated. And the Farm Bureau is never going to concede to this,” he said. “Their argument and scare tactic was and is: If we regulate the ‘big’ guys, we will have to regulate the ‘little guys’ also. Soon it will be too late, there will not be any family farmers left. But why would the Farm Bureau worry; they will sell their insurance anyway. The billboard in my town reads: ‘You don’t have to be a farmer to insure with us.’ ”

    * * *

    Christen is referring to that other, lesser-known facet of the Farm Bureau. It’s not just a non-profit “farmers organization” but a multi-billion dollar network of for-profit insurance companies, the third-largest insurance group in the United States. Its premiums generated more than $11 billion last year alone, on top of has assets worth more than $22 billion. In many states, Missouri among them, members of the Farm Bureau board and the board of its affiliated insurance company are one and the same, sharing office buildings and support staff.

    And those 6 million farmers it claims as members? In many states, anyone who signs up for Farm Bureau insurance becomes a member of the Farm Bureau automatically, which explains why the American Farm Bureau Federation boasts 6 million members when the United States has only about 2 million farmers. In Missouri, less than a third of its members are farmers. Nonetheless, all of its 113,000 members pay annual dues, as they do throughout the country, which fuels a potent political machine.

    In addition to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s twenty-two lobbyists, no fewer than 20 of the state Farm Bureaus, including Missouri, have registered lobbyists in Washington, leading the field of agribusiness lobbyists. Over the past decade, the nation’s ten largest agribusiness interests gave $35 million to Congressional candidatesundefinedled by the Farm Bureau, which gave $16 million, or 45 percent of the total. Farm Bureau PACS donated another $16 million to state candidates, according to election records.

    The Farm Bureau also has a financial interest in agribusiness corporations. In recent years, its insurance affiliates have bought stock in companies like Cargill, ConAgra, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Tyson and Archer Daniels Midland, all major food industry players. The Southern Farm Bureau Annuity Insurance Co. once owned more than 18,000 shares of Premium Standard stock.

    It has also grown increasingly concerned about the mounting resistance to the get-big-or-get-out agribusiness model, which has led increasing numbers of farmers and consumers to seek out alternatives.

    So the American Farm Bureau has pushed into public relations, spearheading the launch of the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, an advertising/social media/PR campaign to paint agriculture in a more favorable light. With an $11 million annual budget and most of the national commodity groups on board, the big ag-business players are now joiningundefinedDuPont, John Deere, Monsanto and BASF.

    “Our adversaries are smart and resourceful,” said the American Farm Bureau’s Stallman, who also heads the Farmers and Ranchers Alliance. “But we’re now matching them in using new communications tools, new strategies and new tactics.” The group’s promotional videos display polished vignettes but they are not filmed inside CAFOs; rather they are shot in sunlit fields of wheat and corn with attractive and articulate family farmers and distributed to partners such as the Discovery network on cable TV. It is the Rockwellian image of the farmer America loves, and one the Farm Bureau uses to pursue public approval for its agendaundefinedand against small farmers like Christen.

    Christen, now 58, is still fighting Premium Standard and the Farm Bureau; it has pretty much consumed his life. Now, a 140,000 hog factory is located seven miles south of him. As his original lawsuit drags on, the stench persists. Whether Speer’s legal barrage proves to be a game-changer or merely an aggravating blip on the EKG of corporate agriculture has yet to be seen. It’s also unclear whether the voices of small farmers, like Christen, will be strong enough to counter the ingrained image of the Farm Bureau as their savior andprotector.

    “There’s only so many times you can tell farmers you’re acting in their interest, and then act in the complete opposite manner,” says Rhonda Perry, a Missouri farmer and a former Farm Bureau “princess” who runs the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, a grassroots organization supporting family farmers. “So, now they’re saying we have to convince the consumers that agriculture is good and this new way of producing animals is really the best way.”

    Then she sighs.

    “As long as you have money to perpetuate the myth, the war is going to go on and on and on.…”

     

    Lauren Hasler, a freelance journalist, contributed to this report. It was produced in collaboration with the Food & Environment Reporting Network, an independent non-profit news organization producing investigative reporting on food, agriculture and environmental health.

  • 16 Feb 2014 1:37 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    "Rethink that Permit " by
    Mike Masterson In the Northwest Arkansas Times February 16, 2014

    The unbelievable saga of the Cargill-sponsored hog factory our state wrongheadedly permitted in the Buffalo National River watershed just became more twisted where reason and common sense are concerned. (As if that were possible.)

    Now we read that attorneys for the national law firm Earthjustice (representing four public-interest groups) sent a letter last week to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (cough) that spelled out alleged misrepresentations and problems with the permit this agency so quickly and quietly issued to the controversial hog factory.

    And this latest development means the entire matter of the permit likely will be reopened for public hearings.

    Among the Earthjustice concerns was a real doozy. C&H Hog Farms said in the nutrient management plan of its permit application that it had access to 17 fields around the 6,500-swine factory on which to spray tons of the resulting waste. However, the rightful owners of three of those 17 fields say they never gave permission to C&H to use their property.

    It gets worse. Last year our state agreed to spend over 500,000 of our tax dollars to monitor water quality around this factory.

    University of Arkansas researchers began testing on three fields.

    And, you guessed it, two of those three belong to those who denied their permission in the first place. (And none of those three fields being tested had even received waste applications.) Huh?

    Farmers and landowners around little Mount Judea, which borders the C&H factory, wrote to the university last week asking its researchers to stop testing and water monitoring on the fields where C&H was denied approval.

    Moreover, the letter to the Department of Environmental Quality contends that the agency and C&H owners have known about the ownership issues and even acknowledged as much in inspection reports. So just what the whole-hog, half-ham has been going on here?

    As a result of these alleged misrepresentations in the permit, Earthjustice says it has presented the state agency with legitimate reasons to reconsider the permit issued late in the summer of 2012. They are seeking a public review and full reconsideration of the permit.

    In a resulting news release, Ozark Society President Bob Cross of Fayetteville said: “The people of Arkansas and the university research team have been seriously misled … both ADEQ and C&H previously knew that three fields were improperly identified as fields set to receive manure applications. So why did they erroneously allow the University of Arkansas research team to use these fields to conduct monitoring and consequently waste a lot of taxpayer money?”

    Nothing I see worth arguing over. Just answer one simple question:Why would you allow such nonsense to stand up in the permitting process?

    Earthjustice lawyers concluded: “Public involvement and transparency from the start could well have prevented the ill-advised siting of a factory farm in the watershed of the treasured Buffalo National River and the subsequent waste of taxpayer dollars to monitor and study the facility.”

    The Earthjustice and activists’ concerns extend to a ground-penetrating radar study by the university’s team which shows evidence of subsurface features capable of allowing water contaminated by hog manure to rapidly travel into adjacent surface waters rather than being absorbed into field crops, as the factory’s disposal plan shows. Big Creek (a major tributary of the Buffalo National River) runs adjacent to some application fields and close to others.

    “C&H is contracted with Cargill, one of the world’s largest privately owned businesses, which had sales and other revenues of $136.7 billion in fiscal year 2013 alone,” says the letter of complaint. “Despite this, C&H put taxpayers on the line for $3.4 million in federal loan guarantees in order to obtain a loan for construction.”

    Earthjustice says the Department of Environmental Quality granted C&H coverage under a state general permit on August 3, 2012. And that permitting process flew under the radar and was devoid of public participation.

    Now the hog factory is seeking what amounts to more than a half-million dollars in taxpayer assistance to conduct the water-quality monitoring studies around its facility “that could and should have been performed by C&H and Cargill before the permit application was ever filed and before ADEQ granted any permit,” Earthjustice so correctly adds.

    “In short, C&H, contracted with a corporation worth billions, has now cost the Arkansan taxpayers more than half a million dollars and continues to rely on the public [treasury] to address problems that it and ADEQ should have addressed before the permitting of an industrial-sized hog facility in the karst terrain of the Buffalo River watershed. In exchange, C&H has created six local jobs.”

    So there you have the latest installment in this unbelievably cartoonish drama I hereby propose we title “ Buffalo before Swine.” -
  • 12 Feb 2014 10:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    State testing wrong fields near hog farm, opponents of operation say

    Posted by Max Brantley on Wed, Feb 12, 2014 at 9:36 AM

    WRONG WAY: Opponents say environmental testing is being done of land that isn't receiving waste from C and H hog feeder operation.
    WRONG WAY: Opponents say environmental testing is being done of land that isn't receiving waste from C and H hog feeder operation.
    A coalition of groups fighting the Cargill-backed hog feeder operation in the watershed of the Buffalo National River in Newton County issued a news release blasting the state's effort to monitor water quality in the area. It said the state is testing property unaffected by spreading of hog manure.

    This makes the state's spending on the project, encouraged by Gov. Mike Beebe, a waste of money, the groups say.

    The group, which is suing over the environmental assessment done for the farm's permit, said this is just the latest in a series of mistakes, omissions and flaws in the regulatory process that improperly allowed the mass feeding operation to go forward. the group wants the permitting process reopened.

    Its full release follows.



    Newly Released Arkansas C & H Water Monitoring Study Used Taxpayer Money to Test Wrong Fields for Hog Waste Contamination

    Coalition calls on state to fully reopen C & H’s permitting process; Local citizens ask University of Arkansas to cease unauthorized testing on their land

    Mt. Judea, Arkansas – Earlier today, a coalition of public interest groups sent a letter to Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) Director Teresa Marks pointing out misrepresentations around the permitting of C & H Hog Farms – a 6,500-swine facility in the Buffalo National River watershed. As a result of these misrepresentations, which reports show occurred as recently as January, the coalition is urging the agency to fully reopen the permitting process for C & H. In addition, a letter was sent this week by Mt. Judea farmers and landowners to a University of Arkansas research team studying the impacts of the C & H operation. The landowners asked that the research team cease water monitoring and testing that is currently underway on their land and that was never approved by the property owners.

    Last year, Arkansas approved the spending of over half a million dollars in taxpayer money for water monitoring around C & H. As part of the facility’s nutrient management plan (NMP) submitted and approved by ADEQ, C & H claimed to have access to 17 fields to dispose of their hog waste. However, property owners of land in three of those fields had declined permission to use their properties as manure sprayfields when they were initially approached by C & H. Remarkably, two of those three fields have since been identified as the focus of the state-funded University of Arkansas water monitoring project, despite the fact that they have not and will never receive C & H waste. This has occurred while both ADEQ and C & H had knowledge of the ownership issues with the fields identified in the NMP, as acknowledged in subsequent compliance inspection reports.

    “The people of Arkansas and the university research team have been seriously misled,” said Ozark Society President Robert Cross. “We’ve learned that both ADEQ and C & H previously knew that three fields were improperly identified as fields set to receive manure applications. So why did they erroneously allow the University of Arkansas research team to use these fields to conduct monitoring and consequently waste a lot of taxpayer money?”

    In its first quarterly report sent to the governor this week, the University of Arkansas research team noted that they have already accessed one of the falsely-identified properties for research and monitoring, and plan to conduct further testing on these fields moving forward.

    The aforementioned letter sent by Mt. Judea landowners to the University of Arkansas states: “We have not granted permission for C & H to use our lands as manure sprayfields, nor have we granted permission for the Big Creek Research Team to access our lands to perform research on the impacts of the C & H facility. We request that your Team immediately cease all activities on our property and seek our approval before accessing our properties in the future.”

    In June of last year, well-known Arkansas hydrogeologist Dr. John Van Brahana called on ADEQ to suspend C & H’s permit to address “significant omissions and potential problems.” While Dr. Brahana proposed a research program to assess the water quality of the region to more fully understand the impacts of the facility before field application began, his offers were bypassed – with the state instead opting to fund a University of Arkansas monitoring program that costs taxpayers over half a million dollars to identify issues after the fact. Brahana has moved forward with testing with his own money and support from other organizations.

    “The more we look into this permitting process for C & H, the more flaws, misrepresentations, and omissions we’re finding that allowed this hog facility to fly through under the radar,” said Earthjustice attorney Hannah Chang. “This whole monitoring process is such a huge waste of taxpayer money and one that our coalition warned about when the water testing was originally proposed by the state. Given these recent discoveries of serious missteps and scientific research that validates our environmental concerns, we are urging ADEQ to fully reopen the permitting process for C & H Hog Farms.”

    C & H is under contract with Cargill – the largest privately held company in the nation and the sole customer for the facility. Public pressure has been mounting against both Cargill and ADEQ to remove the facility from its current location, with billboards, rallies and petitions appearing across the state. Both ADEQ and Cargill have steadfastly supported the location of the facility, though ADEQ Director Teresa Marks readily admitted in a December New York Times article that “some of this waste could reach the Buffalo River.” In the same article, Dr. Brahana, whose experience with such matters is considerable, was much more explicit, saying: “There is a probably greater than 95 percent chance that we are going to see impacts of degraded water quality and major environmental degradation.”

    In another equally important facet of this case, the coalition opposing C & H filed a lawsuit in August of 2013 challenging the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for their inadequate review and improper authorization of loan guarantee assistance to C&H. In providing federal assistance, SBA undertook no environmental review, while FSA prepared a deeply flawed and insufficient environmental assessment that fails to comply with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. The agencies also failed to consult with the superintendent at Buffalo National River, as required by law.

    “We’re not talking about a bunch of conservationists who are the only ones opposed to this hog factory,” said Buffalo River Watershed Alliance member Dane Schumacher. “The letter from local landowners illustrates how C & H Hog Farms is already impacting life for local Mt. Judea farmers. Opposition is being driven by those most affected by this operation, and it’s time ADEQ and C & H listen to their concerns.”

    Today’s letter was sent by Earthjustice, Earthrise Law Center, and local attorney Hank Bates on behalf of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, National Parks Conservation Association, The Ozark Society and Arkansas Canoe Club.

    To read the letter the coalition sent to ADEQ, as well as the letter sent by local landowners to the University of Arkansas, click here.

    For the University of Arkansas’s flawed initial report on water quality testing, click here.

    For background on the lawsuit, click here.
  • 11 Feb 2014 6:19 PM | Deleted user
    It's the Location
    Democrat-Gazette-February 11, 2014
     
    I've got to smile whenever I read how some lobbyists and others with special-interest agendas try to make it seem in news stories as if
    public opposition (including my own) to the hog factory placed in the precious Buffalo National River watershed, when our state's Department of Environmental Quality (cough) quickly and quietly permitted that mega-waste-producer in such a sensitive location, somehow equals wide-spread opposition to hog farms and Cargill.  Talk about a crimson oinker (pork version of a red herring).
     
    Once again for the record, the only protests in this instance are over the wrongheaded location of this particular swine factory, not the farmers or hog farming itself. Period. End of sentence.

  • 09 Feb 2014 12:02 PM | Deleted user
    ADEQ notified C&H yesterday of a necessary permit modification with a new notice of intent and nutrient management plan.  This will be a major modification requiring a public notice on ADEQ's website with a 30-day comment period.  We will post when public notice has been made and comment period is open.  Access letter at link below:
     
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