Buffalo River 


  • 25 Oct 2016 12:16 PM | Anonymous

    New York Times

    North Carolina’s Noxious Pig Farms


    The landscape of eastern North Carolina is dotted with giant pools of bright pink sludge. These are waste lagoons, where industrial farms across the state dispose of billions of gallons of untreated pig urine and feces every year.

    The waste can carry E. coli, salmonella, cryptosporidium and other bacteria that can lead to serious illness or death if they spread to humans. After Hurricane Matthew deluged North Carolina this month, at least 14 of the lagoons flooded.


    Environmental advocates and state officials have been flying over regions to identify overflowing lagoons where floodwaters have become mixed with the waste, a public health hazard that could last for weeks as bacteria flow into rivers and streams, potentially sickening those who come into contact with those waters.

    Bacteria can also contaminate groundwater, the main source of drinking water for more than three million North Carolinians. Meanwhile, the nitrogen and phosphorus in hog waste can kill fish and damage ecosystems. State officials are now beginning to test rivers to assess the level of contamination.

    In states where hog farmers use waste lagoons, like North Carolina and Illinois, flooding is a serious hazard that may become more frequent as climate change leads to more severe storms. Even under normal conditions, lagoons can produce dangerous gases, noxious smells and dust containing hog waste. People living near these lagoons are at increased risk of asthma, diarrhea, eye irritation, depression and other health problems.

    A research program at North Carolina State University has found several safer waste-disposal methods, including one that converts nitrogen in waste into harmless nitrogen gas and uses another process to eliminate harmful bacteria.

    North Carolina took steps toward protecting its residents by passing a moratorium on new lagoons in 1997 and making it permanent in 2007. But around 4,000 lagoons constructed before 1997 remain in active use. Unless North Carolina and other states require agriculture companies to change their waste-disposal methods, what happened after Hurricane Matthew will happen again.

  • 20 Oct 2016 8:41 AM | Anonymous


    Slow loans over green woes put CAFOs in limbo

    By Catherine Boudreau

    10/20/2016 05:00 AM EDT

    The Obama administration is slow-walking the credit it gives to large dairy and livestock farms out of fear that it could get slapped with another big environmental lawsuit, POLITICO has learned.

    Big farms in the South, Midwest and Northeast are struggling to get the financing they need because of the slowdown, with applications for loan guarantees languishing for more than a year and a half in some cases, lenders and state farm groups say.

    The foot-dragging stems from a 2013 lawsuit that the environmental law nonprofit Earthjustice filed against the administration over loans it guaranteed for farmers to build a concentrated animal feeding operation in northern Arkansas. The litigation has forced the Small Business Administration to reevaluate the way it vets the loan applications to include an assessment of the environmental impact of construction, causing major delays in approvals.

    The Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency, too, is taking longer to approve guaranteed farm loans for new construction due to stricter environmental scrutiny, lenders say, although an agency spokesman said its environmental assessment process hasn't changed as a result of the lawsuit, with the exception of that one Arkansas case.

    The backlog of loan applications in Arkansas, New York, Wisconsin and other dairy and meat-producing states is hurting the already sluggish rural economy, lawmakers say, and comes as the agriculture industry faces increasing pressure from the federal government, environmental groups and the public to reduce the impact of farming on land, water and climate.

    "This lack of clarity from the SBA is effectively rendering a potentially valuable economic development tool unavailable to dairy operations," costing about $100 million in potential agribusiness investment in Wisconsin, the state's congressional delegation said in a letter this summer asking the agency to fix the situation. The lawmakers added that while they understand the need to protect natural resources, the SBA must outline its expectations on how loan applicants can comply with federal regulations.

    The agency asserts that it continues to make loans to farmers and ranchers, but the process "may take a bit longer now as we continue to thoroughly review and ensure environmental compliance," spokesman Terry Sutherland said.

    Because major farm construction projects are capital intensive and often cost more than the $1.39 million cap FSA places on both direct and guaranteed loans, farmers can use SBA programs to make up the difference. Commercial and Farm Credit System bankers often seek these government-backed loans to reduce their risk and offer farmers long-term loans at lower fixed rates.

    Earthjustice, representing four Arkansas conservation groups, sued the SBA and FSA for guaranteeing $3.6 million in loans to a Cargill contract farm. The suit argued the SBA violated both the National Environmental Policy and Endangered Species acts by not assessing the environmental impact of C&H Hog Farms building housing for 6500-swine in Mount Judea.

    The complaint also said the FSA's evaluation was flawed because, for example, it didn't mention the Buffalo National River and its tributary, Big Creek, even though nine fields where manure is spread border the tributary.

    A federal judge agreed, ordering the agencies to conduct a joint environmental assessment. Although the administration again found that the hog farm would have "no significant impact" on the environment, the lawsuit forced the SBA to update its more than 30-year-old environmental policy, which the agency hadn't been applying to loans, to determine what environmental evaluations should entail.

    In a letter to Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) in August, the SBA said it was reviewing its mandate under NEPA and "giving special attention to large dollar loans" to livestock operations, especially those of $2 million or more.

    The complexity of the NEPA process means any number of issues can delay a project, such as the need for numerous permits for things like animal waste disposal, SBA Associate General Counsel Eric Benderson said.

    In addition, Benderson said reviews of farm expansion proposals need to consider the impact on wetlands and endangered species, requiring another layer of sign-off by the Fish and Wildlife Service.

    The American Bankers Association, in letters to both the SBA and FSA this month, characterized the situation as a moratorium on lending to livestock facilities based on feedback from its members. The industry group also said the EPA's Waters of the U.S. final rule, which is being challenged in court by scores of states and agricultural industry groups, is partly to blame for the administration's display of caution.

    Both the SBA and FSA insist there is no moratorium on loan guarantees and they continue to finance animal agriculture. They also denied that WOTUS litigation is affecting lending activity.

    In a letter last week to Steve Apodaca, ABA's senior vice president of agricultural and rural banking, FSA Administrator Val Dolcini said "it is unfortunate that some of our lender partners have received inaccurate information," adding that FSA's normal environmental compliance process can take time, but it should not be confused with a moratorium. He also noted that the agency's guaranteed loan activity reached an all-time high in fiscal 2016, totaling nearly $4 billion dollars, although that figure reflects financing for all types of farm operations, not just the livestock sector.

    The Agriculture Department also said USDA-required environmental assessments are in a borrower's best interest and help them to avoid headaches down the line.

    "The situation in Arkansas is a case in point," said Matt Herrick, the department's director of communications. "The operator's loan was held up for years in litigation. We want to get credit to those who qualify as expeditiously as possible and prevent headaches down the line; following the rules when an assessment is necessary is part of that process."

    For its part, the SBA more than doubled the value of the general small business loans it guaranteed to CAFOs from fiscal years 2012-15, which went from $224 million to more than $652 million, the agency's figures show. But that amount dropped to about $604 million in fiscal 2016.

    Over that same period, the SBA's real estate and equipment loans to dairy and livestock farms fell from slightly more than $21 million to less than $13 million, with the exception of fiscal 2015, which saw a spike to about $25 million, the agency said.

    The overall drop in financing for both programs in fiscal 2016 coincides with when Wisconsin Business Development, an SBA-certified development company, and lenders interviewed for this story recall first seeing the slowdown, with some saying they saw delays halfway through fiscal 2015 and others the following fiscal year.

    Wisconsin Business Development, based in Madison, has been in a "holding pattern" for about a year in a half while the agency tries to "find a balance" between its role as lender and its requirements under NEPA, said Michael Hitt, the organization's vice president and legal counsel.

    While the nonprofit managed to get SBA to back a couple of projects, it's not a pattern, he said.

    Meanwhile, the agency has yet to say which environmental documents applicants need to provide, Hitt said. The lack of information has led his organization to shy away from advising clients on the expected costs and time frame for completing the loan process, he added.

    And while the dairy industry makes up only 10 percent of the nonprofit's portfolio, it's an important piece; the organization has helped secure nearly $285 million for 80 producers over the last 20 years.

    "We don't want to actively market a program that we're not comfortable concluding," Hitt said. "That is dangerous in the short term, and we can lose credibility with banks."

    Dave Coggins, an agricultural lender at Investors Community Bank in Wisconsin, said five of the six projects his bank is financing with SBA have been in limbo for more than a year. Without the assurance that their loan rates are locked in, those farmers are finding it hard to plan ahead.

    "The most frustrating part is that there is no predictability," Coggins said, noting that the costs of the environmental assessments, which farmers have to pay, could go up after SBA finishes its review. "I hope that in the end it will still be a viable program for animal agriculture and that it isn't priced out of our marketplace."

    While organizations such as Coggins' and Hitt's are trying to impress upon the SBA that Wisconsin already has stringent environmental standards for CAFOs, the agency seems to be undervaluing those standards, they say.

    "There's a lot going on regarding agriculture and the environment, and I think this is a program that is getting unnecessarily caught in the crossfire," Coggins said.

    Coggins said his bank hasn't had difficulty obtaining guaranteed loans from the FSA, although that could change as a result of a final rule the agency published in August that made minor changes to its NEPA regulations. He and his colleagues plan to meet with the FSA at the end of the month to go over implementation. 

    But in New York, the FSA has been extremely cautious about guaranteeing large loans to dairy farms because of environmental concerns, said Edward Coates, regional agriculture banking manager for NBT Bank in Norwich, N.Y.

    When his bank applied for the agency's backing to reduce its risk on a $1 million loan for a 1,000-cow family farm, what would typically take 30 days dragged out for eight months — and cost the farm $400,000 in lost revenue — as the FSA conducted its own review of the farm's waste-management plan, Coates said. In the past, the agency has relied on documents showing the farm is in compliance with the state's Department of Environmental Conservation nutrient management requirements, he said.

    "I have had discussions with regional credit officers, and the stories are virtually identical," Coates said, noting that there hasn't been any trouble with smaller projects. "We'll continue to have conversations with FSA to see if there can be more consistency so lenders and applicants know what they need to do and not be blindsided."

    A similar situation is playing out in Arkansas, where farmers trying to get into the poultry business are struggling to get loan guarantees, especially in the northeastern part of the state, where processor Peco Foods recently built a new plant, said Travis Justice, the state Farm Bureau's chief economist and director of commodity and regulatory affairs.

    "The agencies are caught between an industry ripe for expansion and those concerned about environment, so farmers, bankers and poultry companies are all in a quagmire trying to navigate the rules of the game," he said. 

  • 19 Oct 2016 12:06 PM | Anonymous

    Mother Jones Magazine

    You Don't Want to Know Where This Pig Poop Is Washing Up

    The floods from Hurricane Matthew are finally receding, but the battle over manure leaked from hog farms is just getting started. 


    Use link above to read article with photos

  • 05 Oct 2016 11:39 AM | Anonymous


    Governor appoints panel to promote river’s health

    By Brenda Blagg

    Posted: October 5, 2016 at 1 a.m.

    If you think of the Buffalo National River, the image of soaring bluffs rising over free-flowing, pristine water immediately comes to mind.

    That's been the case for generations in these Ozark Mountains where the river cuts through rugged wilderness and is so beloved that it was named America's first national river in 1972.

    That image, if not the river itself, has been sullied in more recent years amid serious concern for the river's water quality.

    The views are as striking as ever beneath those bluffs, enough to draw millions of visitors to the region. Last year, 1.4 million came and the Buffalo remains a major tourism attraction.

    Yet, thick ropes of algae, enough to stop a canoe, have been visible in the river.

    Presence of the algae suggests high levels of nutrients in the water. Such issues have been among the concerns of the river's advocates, who worry the area's porous karst terrain could be contaminated by nearby development, such as a controversial hog farm near Mount Judea.

    Indeed, much of the concern has resulted from the permitting of that industrial hog farm on a nearby tributary to the Buffalo. The permitting prompted public outcry and legal action from those who continue the fight to protect the river.

    Of course, environmentalists and outdoor enthusiasts have been stirred to action. But this controversy has reached much more deeply into the Arkansas psyche. Last week, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he has received as many letters from constituents regarding the Buffalo River as he has for any issue.

    "That says something," he said.

    Hutchinson made the remark as he named a committee of state agency representatives to create a watershed management plan for the Buffalo.

    The intent is to prevent complaints, not just respond to them.

    The Arkansas Natural Resources Commission and the state departments of Environmental Quality, Health, Parks and Tourism, and Agriculture will be involved. Collectively, they'll make up the Beautiful Buffalo River Action Committee and their goal will reportedly be to protect the watershed proactively.

    They'll have no new regulatory power over development but can guide development and assist landowners in securing grants to implement protective measures.

    The committee is supposed to meet quarterly and provide annual reports to the governor, the first of which will be due Jan. 31, 2018.

    So the first reactions to its creation are naturally of the wait-and-see variety, especially from some of those who've been most involved in fighting the hog farm. Those are the people who still provide the most intense eyes on the operation, largely through the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance. The group formed in 2013 to fight C&H Hog Farms.

    The state has since hired researchers from the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture to monitor the hog farm and its surrounding area continuously. Most recently, the state funded a drilling project to detect any leakage from a waste pond. That report is due by the end of the year.

    Creation of the committee is at least an acknowledgement by the governor that protection of the river and its watershed is a priority for many Arkansans.

    Time will tell how much more this effort to coordinate state agencies will actually mean.

    The president of the watershed alliance, Gordon Watkins of Jasper, called the committee's creation a "good step," but he also encouraged public input to the process.

    Watkins specifically mentioned the need for limits on nutrient levels. He noted that poultry farmers in the Illinois River watershed must have nutrient management plans to address waste runoff.

    In a subsequent statement, the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance went further in its reaction:

    "For this to be viewed as more than a public relations initiative, we would expect to see actual good faith steps taken by the governor's office and (Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality) to identify and eliminate the obvious risks to the Buffalo."

    The alliance wants the governor's office to add a review of permitting processes, specifically for operations in karst geology where groundwater can flow swiftly.

    It mentioned making a state moratorium on medium and large commercial animal feeding operations permanent. And, of course, the organization suggested an initiative to reduce nutrients from all nearby activities from polluting the Buffalo.

    Obviously, stakeholder support for the governor's initiative is, at best, cautious.

    The governor and this committee of agencies have their work cut out for them -- not just to create a watershed management plan but also to persuade Arkansans that the state really will protect the Buffalo.

    Commentary on 10/05/2016

  • 04 Oct 2016 3:01 PM | Anonymous


    In 3Q, pigs biggest loser in commodities

    By Lydia Mulvany and Jen Skerritt Bloomberg New

    Posted: October 4, 2016 at 2:05 a.m.

    Ham, bacon, ribs, pork loins -- if it has to do with pigs, prices are in the doldrums.

    Hog futures were the worst investment in commodities recently ended third quarter and in the past year. That's because there are simply too many pigs. They're so numerous these days that slaughterhouses will have to add shifts and operate on Saturdays in November and December to process them all into food, according to Will Sawyer, an Atlanta-based vice president for Rabobank International.

    The oversupply comes at a time of tepid export demand. China, which more than doubled U.S. pork purchases in the first half of the year, has now put the brakes on buying. Devaluation of the peso also threatens shipments to Mexico, the destination for 40 percent of U.S. hams. Wholesale prices for pork cuts such as ham and ribs are the lowest for this time of year since 2009. Hedge funds are signaling the meat will probably stay cheap, as speculators cut their bets on a hogs rally in four of the past five weeks.

    "We have a black cloud over the market as a whole," Dustin Guy, a broker at PCI Advisory Services Inc. in Waucoma, Iowa, said by phone. "The slaughter numbers have scared people from going long in the market."

    Hog futures for December settlement on Friday fell 6.4 percent to 43.98 cents a pound on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 32 percent last quarter. It was the biggest decline in the Bloomberg Commodity Index of 22 raw materials, which lost 3.9 percent.

    Futures could fall to as low as 40 cents, Guy said. Prices haven't been seen that low since 2002.

    Pork output surged 10 percent in August to 2.15 billion pounds, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data released Sept. 22. The trend is expected to continue as weekly figures show that the number of slaughtered animals has consistently climbed in September from a year earlier. Hog supplies typically peak in the fourth quarter, which means even more animals are coming. U.S. production of the meat this year is forecast to be the largest ever.

    "We could have not just a record but an obscene record supply," Rich Nelson, chief strategist at Allendale Inc. in McHenry, Ill., said by telephone.

    As of Sept. 1, the U.S. hog herd rose 2.4 percent from a year earlier to 70.85 million head, according to a USDA report released Friday. That's the highest ever for the month in data that goes back to 1866. Analysts in a Bloomberg survey expected a gain of 1.2 percent.

    Producers expanded after cheap grain made it easier to fatten up pigs -- the average hog weight is almost 211 pounds, about 4 pounds more than the 10-year average. At the same time, there were expectations that demand would stay robust in China, the world's biggest pork-consuming nation, after the country's hog farmers culled herds. While exports in some weeks during April and May exceeded 5,500 tons, they sank below 1,100 tons in mid-September, USDA data show.

    The supply glut is a boon for consumers. Wholesale prices for hams, pork bellies, ribs and loins are all at the lowest in seven years for this time of year, and costs in grocery stores are reflecting declines. Pork is leading the way in meat deflation, which is occurring as the cattle, hog and chicken industries expand simultaneously. The USDA cut its forecast for 2016 pork prices Sept. 23, forecasting a drop of as much as 5.5 percent from last year.

    Even though pork is cheap, hogs are cheaper, meaning that packers are still making money -- margins have been profitable since July 2015. Earlier this month, margins were $52.20 a head, the highest in at least three years, according to HedgersEdge data.

    Information for this article was contributed by Megan Durisin of Bloomberg News.

    Business on 10/04/2016

  • 04 Oct 2016 8:42 AM | Anonymous

    Another committee

    Beautiful Buffalo

    By Mike Masterson

    It would be wrong not to commend Gov. Asa Hutchinson for his new plan whereby five state agencies comprising the "Beautiful Buffalo River Action Committee" will create a watershed management plan to help Arkansas secure funding for conservation projects within the environmentally fragile Buffalo National River watershed.

    The "Beautiful Buffalo" and "action" parts are spot on. Wish it had been a factor four years ago.

    Look, I'm for anything meaningful the governor can do to keep our precious national river in God's Country from becoming needlessly contaminated at the expense of tourism and recreation for so many thousands.

    But as for yet another political committee, I've discovered a pattern over years as a journalist. When many in high elected office sense dissension and displeasure among the populace on important matters, they form a committee to file reports and hold hearings. Sure hope this latest one with such a pleasant name isn't more of the same ol' politically expedient, do-nothing dodge designed to deflect.

    The committee will consist of the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission and the state departments of Environmental Quality (cough), Health, Parks and Tourism, and Agriculture.

    I wonder, with widespread frustration over the state wrongheadedly permitting C&H Hog Farms in this sacred watershed, why no Farm Bureau or Pork Producers on the action committee? How can that be when these special interests are so outspoken in defense of the factory and generous politically?

    Reporter Emily Walkenhorst writes that Hutchinson said his Beautiful Buffalo Committee, assisted by a $107,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, will retain an engineer to help analyze data and develop a plan to protect the Buffalo. I already have a foolproof plan for free. I'll discuss a few paragraphs down.

    The Department of Environmental Quality's latest director, Becky Keogh, said the new committee's actions will include public meetings and input from stakeholders. Meetings and input! Wow!

    Many Arkansans closely watching how the governor and this state agency deal with the potential pollution of the Buffalo from waste consider themselves the ultimate major stakeholders, as do many thousands of others across America who annually come to spend millions of dollars enjoying the Buffalo.

    Hutchinson acknowledges as much when he says he's received as many comments about the Buffalo from constituents as on any other topic. "The Buffalo River is an extraordinary national river that we are blessed to have here in Arkansas," he said.

    I'm also strongly assuming when Hutchinson refers to receiving comments about the Buffalo he really means comments about this swine factory the Department of Environmental Quality approved for one Newton County family to set up and operate in the worst possible environmental location in Arkansas.

    Keogh reassured prospective swine factories and others this new watershed protection plan won't regulate development. Instead, it will provide a guide for development and, as Walkenhorst wrote, "a catalyst for obtaining additional grants for landowners in the watershed who want to implement protective measures."

    Finally, Hutchison's memorandum says his committee will identify projects that can be achieved immediately. Toward that end, I offer a sincere suggestion for one project.

    Have this potential environmental and economic catastrophe that neither Hutchinson nor Keogh created (and which Hutchinson's predecessor calls his biggest regret) immediately closed. Then relocate the factory to an environmentally appropriate location. Make the C&H owners whole financially. Then let us, as stewards of such an inspiring spiritual and physical gift, begin vigilantly protecting this beautiful asset that draws up to 1.5 million visitors a year.


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

  • 01 Oct 2016 11:59 AM | Anonymous


    Panel will develop Buffalo River plan

    Watershed protection funds sought

    By Emily Walkenhorst

    Posted: October 1, 2016 at 3:35 a.m.
    Updated: October 1, 2016 at 3:35 a.m.

    Five state agencies will participate in the creation of a watershed management plan for the Buffalo National River with a goal of helping the state leverage funding for conservation projects in the watershed, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Friday.

    The Arkansas Natural Resources Commission and the state departments of Environmental Quality, Health, Parks and Tourism, and Agriculture will make up the Beautiful Buffalo River Action Committee.

    That committee, with the help of a $107,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, will hire an engineer to assist in analyzing data and developing a plan to protect the Buffalo River, Environmental Quality Department Director Becky Keogh said. The process will include public meetings and input from stakeholders.

    The watershed protection plan will not regulate development. It will be a guide for development and a catalyst for obtaining additional grants for landowners in the watershed who want to implement protective measures, Keogh said.

    The committee also will identify projects that can be done immediately, according to an accompanying memorandum issued by Hutchinson.

    The committee will meet quarterly and provide recommendations on actions and annual reports to the governor. The first report will be due Jan. 31, 2018.

    A watershed is the area from which materials can drain into a body of water.

    Watershed management plans exist for other major bodies of water in Arkansas -- the Illinois River, Beaver Lake and Lake Maumelle, for example -- and have been developed by a variety of groups. In Pulaski County, aspects of the Lake Maumelle watershed management plan became regulatory after the Quorum Court adopted them into a zoning code for the portion of the watershed that was in the county.

    "The Buffalo River is an extraordinary national river that we are blessed to have here in Arkansas," Hutchinson said Friday morning at a news conference.

    The governor said the formation of a plan would be a proactive measure to protect the Buffalo and prevent complaints, not just respond to them. He said he's received as many letters from constituents regarding the Buffalo River as he has for any other issue.

    "That says something," Hutchinson said.

    Gordon Watkins, a Jasper resident and president of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, said the creation of the committee was "a good step."

    Watkins said he hopes the group will consider and use public input, but he was given "a little bit of pause" to find out the watershed protection plan would not be a regulatory document.

    Watkins said he'd like to see limits on nutrient levels in the river, such as those that exist in the Illinois River watershed, where poultry farmers are required by law to have nutrient management plans.

    Watkins said he'd also like to see the karst terrain near the Buffalo factored in when the Environmental Quality Department considers permit applications in the region. The department and opponents of a large industrial hog farm in the watershed have been at odds over whether the land where C&H Hog Farms was permitted is karst -- a porous landscape with caves, springs and aquifers.

    The Buffalo River Watershed Alliance was formed in 2013 to oppose the operation of C&H, and other groups and private citizens across Arkansas have voiced concern about the potential of a hog farm to pollute the Buffalo via open manure ponds.

    They've raised concerns in 2016 about pollution levels in some tributaries of the river and about a study conducted in 2015 that showed higher-than-expected moisture levels below one of the manure ponds.

    Keogh said the Buffalo River meets the standards for an Extraordinary Resource Water, which the EPA defines as a body "characterized by scenic beauty, aesthetics, scientific values, broad scope recreation potential and intangible social values." A few dozen bodies of water in Arkansas are considered Extraordinary Resource Waters.

    Hutchinson noted Friday that the state has hired researchers from the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture to continuously monitor the hog farm and its surrounding area. The state also recently funded a drilling project to detect whether one of the manure ponds had been leaking. The project wrapped up Monday, and a report is expected by the end of the year, Keogh said Friday.

    In 1972, 135 miles of the 150-mile Buffalo River became the country's first national river at the urging of U.S. Rep. John Paul Hammerschmidt and U.S. Sens. J. William Fulbright and John McClellan, all of Arkansas. Some area residents objected to selling land to the federal government and were wary of the presence of a national park.

    Since early 2013, many people across Arkansas, including some watershed residents, have objected to the permitting of C&H Hog Farms on one of the river's tributaries.

    C&H, near Mount Judea in Newton County, sits on Big Creek about 6 miles from where it converges with the Buffalo River. It is the only federally classified large hog farm in the river's watershed and is permitted to house up to 6,000 piglets and 2,503 sows.

    The Buffalo River had 1.46 million visitors last year, the third-highest total since it became a national river and the highest since a record count of 1.55 million in 2009.

    Metro on 10/01/2016

  • 30 Sep 2016 8:19 PM | Anonymous

    Arkansas Times

    Gov. Hutchinson announces a Buffalo River committee UPDATE

    Posted By Max Brantley on Fri, Sep 30, 2016 at 10:26 AM

      Gov. Asa Hutchinson called in press this morning to announce an interagency "action committee" to share information about the Buffalo River.

      He was joined by heads of five state departments of Environmental Quality, Health, Agriculture, Parks and Tourism and Natural Resources.

       It's not a new regulatory agency, the governor emphasized. He's merely attempting to direct a co-ordinated effort toward watershed protection. He said it would "encourage voluntary action," to correct problems, say a road cut in such a way to lead to erosion that puts silt in water.

      Here's a link to his directive.

      I suspect some of this has to do with a spate of recent publicity about algae problems in the river. Ongoing, of course, is the question of whether a factory hog farm located next to a major Buffalo tributary is leaking pig waste. Hutchinson has been a defender of the river. But the agriculture industry's objection to close scrutiny of the hog farm has been gaining strength. If the Buffalo River can be protected, any body of water perhaps could be protected, that thinking goes.

      I was forwarded these photos recently by a Buffalo River fan. A canoeist took them on an 11.5-mile stretch between Gilbert and South Maumee. In addition to algae, sometimes several feet thick, she reported that they frequently encountered a musty smell. Sometimes the algae was too thick to paddle through, the note said.

      Youtube video of Governor's press conference.

      UPDATE: The Buffalo River Watershed Alliance issued a statement about the governor's announcement:

      The Buffalo River Watershed Alliance Inc.(BRWA) recognizes the proposals announced by the Governor’s Office as a positive first step for the Buffalo National River. We appreciate that the Governor’s office is acknowledging that there are serious issues affecting the water quality and health of this Arkansas treasure. For this to be viewed as more than a public relations initiative, we would expect to see actual good faith steps taken by the Governor’s Office and ADEQ to identify and eliminate the obvious risks to the Buffalo. Such steps would demonstrate genuine sincerity towards the river’s interests that would immediately bind stakeholders to the Governor’s efforts. BRWA as a stakeholder has not been solicited for input to this proposal, though we are pleased to be considered for involvement and we will have more to say as we learn more about the details.

      An additional strong step that the Governor’s office could include in their program or run parallel to it, would be to initiate a review of the permitting processes where watersheds high in geologic karst such as the Buffalo that result in swift groundwater flows, receive appropriate additional scrutiny before a permit is granted. The Buffalo River Watershed Alliance (BRWA) would be happy to participate in finding common ground that would address the best interests of the watershed which would in turn ensure a robust tourism economy in the river’s gateway communities for years to come. Such a review should consider making the moratorium on medium and large CAFOs permanent.  

      Finally, a non-point source initiative on reducing nutrients similar to that in the Illinois river watershed is highly appropriate for an extraordinary resource water such as the Buffalo National River. Such a focus would be strongly supported by BRWA as stakeholder.

    • 28 Sep 2016 3:42 PM | Anonymous

      KUAF Public Radio

      Buffalo River Grandmothers Appeal Industrial Swine Waste Permit

      by Jacqueline Froelich September 28, 2016

      Three grandmothers are appealing a new wastewater permit issued by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality for a controversial industrial swine breeding facility on the Buffalo National River Watershed. Listen here

    • 28 Sep 2016 10:13 AM | Anonymous

      State-hired contractor completes testing for manure leaks at hog farm

      By Emily Walkenhorst


      State contractors have wrapped up their drilling project to test for hog manure leakage at C&H Hog Farms near the Buffalo National River, Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality spokesman Kelly Robinson said Tuesday.

      Harbor Environmental of Little Rock and its subcontractor began drilling Sept. 21 at C&H.

      Environmental Quality Department Director Becky Keogh said she visited the site Sept. 21 to make sure the project was running smoothly and that C&H's day-to-day operations were not interrupted. 

      She told the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission on Friday that the project appeared to be making good progress and the site's operations appeared to be unaffected. Keogh said she received daily reports on the project's progress.

      After the sampling is done, Keogh said, it could take six weeks to get the lab-test results. A final report on the project should be completed no later than January, she said.

      The department hired Harbor Environmental for $75,000 to design the project, and Harbor hired Cascade Drilling of Memphis as a subcontractor to carry out the drilling.

      The research was requested earlier this year by opponents of the hog farm after they learned of research done in 2015 that showed what they said was an unexpectedly high amount of moisture beneath one of the manure ponds.

      Big Creek Research and Extension Team researchers disagreed on whether drilling was necessary, arguing that any leak would have been detected at other spots the team is monitoring. The team works out of the University of Arkansas' Agriculture Division and was formed by state officials after an outcry in early 2013 over the state issuance of a permit to C&H in late 2012.

      The Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, which opposes C&H's permit, sued the Environmental Quality Department in August, seeking either to allow its own hydrogeology expert to oversee drilling or to disallow the two members of the Big Creek Research and Extension Team whom the department had permitted to oversee it. The department settled with the group earlier this month, allowing only Tai Hubbard of Hydrogeology Inc., who was already allowed as an independent observer to oversee the drilling, to monitor the project.

      C&H, near Mount Judea in Newton County, sits on Big Creek about 6 miles from where it converges with the Buffalo River. It is the only federally classified large hog farm in the river's watershed and is permitted to house up to 6,000 piglets and 2,503 sows.

      The Buffalo River, the first national river, had 1.46 million visitors last year, the third-highest total since it became a national river in 1972 and the highest since a record count of 1.55 million was set in 2009.

      State Desk on 09/28/2016

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