Panels skip review of hog farms ban
by Joseph Flaherty | June 14, 2020 at 1:00 a.m.
A joint gathering of the state's House and Senate Interim Public Health, Welfare and Labor committees passed on reviewing a ban on medium- and large-scale hog farms in the Buffalo River watershed during a Monday-Tuesday meeting.
Without discussion, legislators approved motions from Reps. John Payton, R-Wilburn, and Mary Bentley, R-Perryville, to skip review of revisions to the rules that comprise the moratorium.
The co-chairman of the joint committee, Rep. Jack Ladyman, R-Jonesboro, said in an interview Friday that he understood the "do not review" option to be legislators' tacit disapproval of the Buffalo River hog farm moratorium.
The moratorium, which has the support of Gov. Asa Hutchinson, as well as conservation groups, now moves to the Administrative Rules Subcommittee of the Arkansas Legislative Council. The Arkansas Farm Bureau opposes the moratorium.
Despite the "do not review" vote, the Rules Subcommittee can still review the measure, which is on the agenda for its Wednesday meeting, said Michael McAlister, the deputy chief counsel for the state's Department of Energy and Environment.
The moratorium is the product of years of wrangling by conservationists to close the C&H Hog Farms on Big Creek, a tributary of the Buffalo River. The hog farm, which obtained a permit to operate in the watershed with a maximum capacity of 6,500 hogs, closed in January as a result of a buyout deal with the state.
In his announcement of the buyout deal last summer, Hutchinson endorsed a permanent moratorium on confined animal feeding operations in the watershed and directed the Arkansas Division of Environment Quality to carry out the rule-making process.
The Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission approved the hog farm ban May 28.
Ladyman said he could not predict what the "do not review" vote in the committee last week augurs for the future or if Legislative Council will even take up the moratorium.
"In that group, there seemed to be a lot of people that did not agree with making the moratorium permanent," Ladyman said of the joint meeting. "That's really all I can say."