State announces closure of hog farm in Buffalo River watershed
BY Max Brantley ON January 6, 2020
The state announced the completion of the deal that closes a hog farm in the Buffalo River watershed, pays the farmers $6.2 million and leaves the state with responsibility for cleaning up the former hog waste ponds.
The state issued this news release:
Stacy Hurst, secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism (ADPHT), announced today that the terms of the agreement to cease operations at a large-scale hog farm near the Buffalo National River have now been consummated.
The owners of C & H Hog Farms, Inc. have received the $6.2 million held in escrow since last August and, in exchange, the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, a part of the Division of Arkansas Heritage, now holds the conservation easement to the property near Big Creek, 6.6 miles from where it flows into the Buffalo National River. Per the agreement, and as a final step, the Division of Environmental Quality of the Arkansas Department of Energy and Environment will be responsible for the closure of the waste ponds at the property.
“All hogs are gone from the property, and the operation is now closed,” said Gov. Asa Hutchinson. “I appreciate the willingness of the farmers to work with us on this, and now look forward to the work that the state will be doing to ensure that the Buffalo National River continues to be the treasure that it is.”
“It’s been a long road to get to this point but has been worth the effort as a step to ensure the vitality of the Buffalo National River now and into the future,” said Hurst. “I want to especially commend the work of ADPHT General Counsel Jim Andrews, who has diligently worked on the negotiations that have made this happen. And I’m also thankful to the team at the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, who will manage the conservation easement.”
The sources of the escrowed funds were split between $3.7 million from the Governor’s Rainy Day Fund, $1.5 million from funds held by the Division of Arkansas Heritage and $1 million in private funding from The Nature Conservancy. After payment of escrow fees and the retirement of farm debt of $2,394,167, secured in part by the property, the total payment to the owners of C & H Hog Farms, Inc. was $3,840,224.42.
C and H will still own the land, but it will be subject to restrictions on use, according to the terms the governor announced last summer. The state has also made permanent a moratorium on factory feeding operations in the Buffalo watershed.