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  • 16 Jun 2019 9:41 AM | Anonymous member

    NWA EDITORIAL: Woo pig, shooieAgreement delivers hope for Buffalo River’s futureby NWA Democrat-Gazette | Today at 1:00 a.m.

    We've heard governors speak at conventions often enough to know it's a rare moment when they actually get to deliver headline-making news to the audience.

    Gov. Asa Hutchinson is an old pro by now with his talks on the rubber-chicken circuit. But at a gathering of the Arkansas Municipal League the other day, his speech made a bigger splash than one of those boulders that's broken loose from a bluff and crashed violently into the waters of the Buffalo National River. There aren't many things so exhilarating as climbing on top and leaping into the (hopefully) clean, moving waters of the river.

    And clean water is at the heart of Hutchinson's news.

    The collection of city leaders in the Statehouse Convention Center's ballroom Thursday broke into applause when Hutchinson revealed he'd just signed a $6.2 million deal for the state to acquire the land on which the C & H Hog Farm has operated since 2013. Hutchinson and Stacy Hurst, director of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, joined forces with The Nature Conservancy, a nonprofit group, to find a solution that removes the massive hog operation from the watershed of the Buffalo River but does it in such a way that the farm's owners won't face financial ruin.

    Environmentally speaking, this news is welcome alleviation of serious concerns a lot of Arkansans have had ever since the hog operation's quiet state approval was discovered. Locally, we'd liken the reaction to the relief felt when plans for a Fayetteville incinerator to burn trash went down in flames back in the late 1980s or when a waste company's plans in the 1990s to build a landfill on Hobbs Mountain near Durham were scuttled.

    It never made sense to put a large hog operation, with its heavy production of waste, within the watershed of the United States' first national river.

    Congress, through the diligent work of conservation-minded people in Arkansas, recognized the need to protect the outstanding natural beauty of the eroded sandstone and limestone bluffs rising high above the river's meandering flow. By 2017, the American National Rivers group ranked the Buffalo as one of Americas 10 most endangered rivers because of the presence of the hog farm and its potential to pollute the river's watershed.

    Resolving the conflict has been difficult. It should not be lost on anyone that Arkansas is an agricultural state, so shutting down a large-scale agricultural operation creates potentially hot political fallout and touches on issues important to farmers all over Arkansas.

    Environmental advocates couldn't successfully paint C&H's owners as heartless polluters, what with their roots in the state. The owners got support from neighbors in the rural, rugged country, where the opening of a big-time, tax-paying venture like the 6,500-hog operation is rare. The controversy triggered debate over property rights, the authority,

    responsibility and adequacy of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, and the public's right to have a say in decisions with high potential for environmental damage.

    As obvious as it was to Buffalo River and environmental advocates that the hog farm should not be there, it seemed just as obvious to farmers across the state that landowners who followed the state's rules ought to be left alone without having their livelihood threatened.

    One could hear Hutchinson balancing the two sides in his comments announcing the agreement. "Let me emphasize that the farmers -- Jason Henson, Richard Campbell and Philip Campbell -- obtained the permit fairly and have operated the hog farm with the utmost care from the beginning," Hutchinson said. "They have not done anything wrong, but the state should never have granted that permit for a large-scale hog farm operation in the Buffalo River watershed."

    The state, in granting that permit, failed its residents, its ecology and a commitment to protecting tourism, another important aspect of Arkansas' economy. Of all the places in Arkansas, we have argued before, the Buffalo National River deserves the "utmost care" from the state at every level. It did not get it in this scenario, until now.

    Such farming operations should not be permitted within the watershed. Hopefully, state officials recognize that fully now.

    We applaud The Nature Conservancy's commitment of $600,000 to $1 million to make the deal possible. Also deserving of kudos is Hutchinson, who continues to call for making permanent an existing temporary ban on new medium- and large-scale hog farms in the watershed.

    The legal fight over C&H and the Buffalo River could have gone on for many more years. We credit its owners and the governor for finding a better way that serves the needs of the state while meeting the financial commitments of the farmers.

    The bumper sticker popular in these parts urges all to "Save the Buffalo." That's not a one-time achievement. From Neil Compton to Asa Hutchinson, it takes leadership in every generation to protect and preserve the wonders of the Buffalo. It's admirable that those in charge today decided to take steps against environmental degradation so that they could honestly say, "Not on my watch."

    Commentary on 06/15/2019

  • 14 Jun 2019 12:06 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Eureka Springs Independent

    Go hogs!

    As evidence grew of the degradation of Buffalo National River and its tributaries as a result of waste from 6,503 hogs at C&H Farms, there continued to be denials from the farm owners and state officials that there was any proof that the large amount of liquid hog waste was responsible for algae blooms and decreasing water quality in the Buffalo River. With the huge confined animal feeding operation backed by the politically powerful Arkansas Farm Bureau and its large legal defense fund, opponents had been frustrated with efforts to protect the country’s first national river.

    On June 7, the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance (BRWA) and the Arkansas Canoe Club filed a notice of intent to sue C&H for alleged violations of the Federal Clean Water Act (CWA). About a week later, there was a surprise victory in the battle to save the Buffalo River when Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced an agreement for the state and The Nature Conservancy to pay $6.2 million to C&H Farms to close the hog factory.

    “In my time in the Ozarks for forty years, I don’t recall anything of this magnitude,” Gordon Watkins, president of BRWA, said. “We had been told by attorneys that with no gross violations at the facility, there was very little chance of shutting it down. I don’t know if this is a precedent for the state or the nation, but I think it is a pretty big accomplishment. It was very significant. Congratulations to everyone who has been involved in the past six years. It has been a team effort to get it done.”

    Watkins said BRWA was created because of C&H and had two goals: shut C&H down and put in place a permanent moratorium on hog farms in the Buffalo River watershed.

    “We feel confident those will be done by the end of the year,” he said. “One without the other is meaningless. We can’t imagine the state would have invested this money if there weren’t assurance that another hog factory would not pop up in the neighborhood. We always felt the permanent moratorium would be the best thing and are glad the governor agreed.”

    Land surrounding the farm will be put under a conservation easement restricting its further usage. The agreement gives C&H 180 days to close the facility, after which the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) will be responsible for cleanup, including closure of the waste lagoons.

    Watkins said they were not involved in the negotiations, but knew there were discussions of some type of acquisition or closure of the farm. In the fiscal session 2018, there were discussions in the Arkansas Legislature about a financial package. While some people have grumbled about the owners of the C&H Farm walking away with a big cash payoff, Watkins said most people have been elated by the news that the farm is closing.

    “From our perspective, we just want to see the thing shut down, the sooner the better,” Watkins said. “It was obvious the legal battle was just going to go on and on and on, probably for years. We were really grateful to the governor for resolving this quickly.”

    About two weeks ago the Arkansas Supreme Court had agreed to hear an appeal regarding the C&H permit. Watkins said they like to think that, combined with the Notice of Intent to Sue, had an impact on the closure.

    “At the very least, it gave a signal that we were not giving up and were prepared to pursue it as long as necessary,” Watkins said. “There were also some wins during the legislative session that probably helped push the negotiations along. There is going to be a public comment period for the closure plan. The ADEQ is going to put that out for public comments and that will be a way to have input on how it is closed.

    “What we want is some ongoing monitoring of Big Creek, which empties into the Buffalo River. There is a phenomenon called legacy phosphorus. It builds up in the soil and is released for a long time period of time, sometimes decades. All the fields surrounding the farms are saturated with phosphorus. All those are above optimum for phosphorus and that will continue to released during rains and through shallow soils into the groundwater and Big Creek.”

    The issue was considered important not just for the environment, but for state tourism revenues. The 2018 National Park Service Visitor Spending Effects Report estimates that 1.2 million visitors spent $54.9 million in the region while visiting Buffalo National River this last year.

    Hutchinson reported initially offer the farm owners less than $6.2 million and reached out for help from The Nature Conservancy, which is expected to provide less than $1 million towards the settlement. Most of the money is designated to come from the governor’s discretionary funds and the Department of Arkansas Heritage.

    To watch the governor’s statement made at a meeting of the Arkansas Municipal League, go to youtu.be/YXnXFIfz6k. For a link to the BRWA lawsuit over alleged CWA violations, go to the website: buffaloriveralliance.org/resources/Documents/PRESS%20RELEASE%20%20CWA%20Notice%20of%20Intent.pdfTo see a copy of the settlement agreement, go to buffaloriveralliance.org/resources/Documents/closure.pdf.

  • 14 Jun 2019 8:58 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Democrat Gazette

    C&H Hog Farms takes state buyout; $6.2M deal cut to preserve Buffalo Riverby Emily Walkenhorst 

    C&H Hog Farms, the subject of yearslong environmental concerns, will close its doors later this year under a $6.2 million buyout agreement reached with Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Department of Arkansas Heritage Director Stacy Hurst.

    The large-scale hog farm that sits within the watershed of the Buffalo National River has 180 days from Thursday to cease operations. After that, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality will begin closing the site, including the hog manure ponds and any cleanup that may be necessary.

    The land will be given to the state as a conservation easement, which will limit its future usage.

    Shortly after signing the agreement Thursday morning, Hutchinson announced the news at the Arkansas Municipal League's luncheon, where he was scheduled to deliver a speech. 

    The announcement drew applause across the Statehouse Convention Center's ballroom in downtown Little Rock.

    "Let me emphasize that the farmers -- Jason Henson, Richard Campbell and Philip Campbell -- obtained the permit fairly and have operated the hog farm with the utmost care from the beginning," Hutchinson said. "They have not done anything wrong, but the state should never have granted that permit for a large-scale hog farm operation in the Buffalo River watershed."

    The Department of Arkansas Heritage has a statutory responsibility "to protect the rivers and streams of Arkansas," Hurst said in a statement sent to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The agreement "will ensure that this national treasure receives the protection that it deserves," the statement reads.

    C&H Hog Farms has been in operation since 2013 and has faced push-back ever since from environmental groups concerned about hog manure ending up in the Buffalo River, the first river in the United States to be designated as a national river. The facility is located on Big Creek, 6.6 miles from where it flows into the Buffalo.

    The creek and river are on the department's proposed list of impaired water bodies for E. coli, but no government agency has concluded C&H is responsible for the bacteria's presence.

    The state, with help from The Nature Conservancy, will pay the farmers $6.2 million in exchange for the closure. Most of that will be public money.

    Hutchinson spokesman J.R. Davis said the amounts haven't been finalized because the governor is waiting to hear from The Nature Conservancy about how much it will raise. The Department of Arkansas Heritage may provide funds, and the rest of the state's money would come from Hutchinson's discretionary fund.

    Hutchinson said The Nature Conservancy will not pay more than $1 million toward the buyout and will likely pay closer to $600,000 or so.

    Per the agreement, the compensation will cover the remaining balance on a multimillion-dollar loan and compensate the farmers for additional costs related to the closure, such as losses from cutting their contract with JBS Pork short and the remaining life of equipment purchased for the farm's operation.

    "We would like to thank all of those who have supported us through these difficult times defending our right to farm," Jason Henson wrote in a statement sent via text message to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. "We also thank the Governor, whose leadership has been instrumental. The time has come to resolve this matter and the terms of this agreement, financial settlement, and grant of a conservation easement present a good solution for everyone."

    Hutchinson also said a temporary ban on new medium- and large-scale hog farms in the watershed should be made permanent. He has directed Department of Environmental Quality Director Becky Keogh to start the rule-making process to make the language permanent.

    The department ordered the facility, which houses to up to 6,503 hogs, to close in November, citing water quality concerns and insufficient geological investigations of the rough karst terrain in which the farm sits.

    C&H subsequently filed a number of appeals of the department's actions and of subsequent actions taken by the department's appellate body, the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology.

    "This has been the source of constant controversy and litigation since the beginning," Hutchinson said. "It has always been my highest priority to protect the Buffalo River and ensure it as a national treasure far into the future."

    The cost and expected duration of all filed and anticipated appeals was not ideal, the governor said.

    "That's not a good outcome, and that doesn't protect the river," which made the buyout the state's best option, Hutchinson said after his speech.

    Hutchinson initially offered the farmers less than $6.2 million. When the farmers said they needed more to cover their losses, he called Scott Simon of The Nature Conservancy.

    Simon reached out to businessmen and donors to gauge their interest in supporting the buyout, The Nature Conservancy spokesman Ginny Porter said. He got a positive response, giving the governor the money needed to pay the farmers.

    Simon was traveling Thursday but issued a statement to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette thanking Hutchinson and the Henson and Campbell families "for working with the State of Arkansas on a solution to a challenging situation."

    Rumors of a buyout have circulated since early 2018, said Gordon Watkins, president of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance. The alliance formed in 2013 to oppose C&H, and members have been active in pursuing legal means to shut down the facility and researching any effects it has on Big Creek and the Buffalo.

    Still, Watkins said, he wasn't expecting an announcement so soon.

    "We're extremely pleased that this has finally come to pass," he said. "We've been at this for six years. We were told at numerous occasions that we were tilting at windmills."

    Watkins supports the buyout and has previously stated his support for compensation for the farmers, should C&H be forced to close, because they obtained their permit legally.

    Watkins said he hopes that monitoring of the water quality in Big Creek and the nearest portions of the Buffalo continues, citing the potential for phosphorus buildup in the soil at C&H to release over time via rainwater runoff.

    On Friday, the alliance and the Arkansas Canoe Club filed a notice of intent to sue C&H in federal court for purported violations of the federal Clean Water Act, including seepage from manure ponds and the spread of hog manure as fertilizer on land in a flood plain.

    The notice states that the alliance would give C&H 60 days to address the alleged violations or it would sue.

    Watkins said he hadn't spoken to his attorney, Richard Mays, as of early Thursday afternoon but said that closure of the facility may qualify as addressing the alliance's claims.

    The Arkansas Farm Bureau released a statement to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in support of C&H.

    "This is a private, and personal, decision by the owners of C&H Hog Farm, which, no doubt, was based on what they felt is best for their future," reads the statement, sent by spokesman Steve Eddington. "Arkansas Farm Bureau's support for the owners of C&H has not wavered, and we wish them success in whatever endeavor they choose to pursue.

    "You cannot tell this story without emphasizing that C&H had no environmental violations during more than five years of operation. That critical point has sometimes been lost. This farm underwent exhaustive testing and evaluation, both by ADEQ and EPA, and there has been no credible scientific evidence that this farm caused harm to the Buffalo River. That fact cannot be overlooked."

    C&H was "one of the most productive swine producers in the region," according to the Farm Bureau.

    Several groups and individuals released statements Thursday in support of the buyout.

    "In my view, the initial approval of this large-scale operation near the sensitive Buffalo River watershed was ill-conceived," U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Ark., said in a statement. "It's my hope that all stakeholders have learned from this extended challenge. I look forward to collaborating with local residents, farmers, as well as state and federal conservation officials, in creating a healthy watershed environment. Protecting the pristine Buffalo River is essential to preserving the livelihoods of countless Arkansans in north central Arkansas."

    Everyone will benefit from the agreement, Arkansas Democratic Party Chairman Michael John Gray said in a statement.

    "While it is unfortunate that these farmers were ever put in this position, I am happy that Governor Hutchinson has followed a suggestion made by me and many other advocates to make these farmers whole and to preserve our national treasure," Gray said in the statement.

  • 14 Jun 2019 7:35 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Talk Business

    Hog farm near Buffalo River receiving $6.2 million to close

    by Steve Brawner (BRAWNERSTEVE@MAC.COM)

    C&H Hog Farms, the controversial facility located 6.6 miles from the Big Creek that flows into the Buffalo National River, will cease operations in return for $6.2 million as part of a voluntary agreement, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Thursday (June 13).

    In addition, Hutchinson said he was directing that a temporary moratorium on large-scale concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, in the Buffalo River watershed be made permanent.

    Speaking to the Arkansas Municipal League and to reporters afterwards, Hutchinson said the farmers will receive $6.2 million. They will still own the land under a conservation easement that will prohibit the construction of a CAFO there.

    Hutchinson said the money will help the farmers pay off a multi-million dollar loan and compensate them for the loss of their business.

    Most of the money will come from the state. Hutchinson said between $600,000 and $1 million will come from The Nature Conservancy. That amount will cover a shortfall between what the farmers wanted and what the state was offering. Under the agreement, once an escrow account is funded, C&H will have up to 180 days to fully shut down operations.

    Hutchinson said the owners “obtained the permit fairly and have operated the hog farm with the utmost care from the beginning. They have not done anything wrong. But the state should have never granted that permit for a large-scale hog operation in the Buffalo River Watershed.”

    Richard and Phillip Campbell and Jason Henson received a permit in 2012 allowing them to raise approximately 6,500 hogs. The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality rejected the farm’s application for a new operating permit in January 2018 and again in November, citing water-quality issues and inadequate testing. But the owners appealed in circuit court and filed a civil lawsuit.

    Opponents fear the farm’s waste is polluting the nation’s first national river.

    Hutchinson told reporters that the agreement had been negotiated over the past few days and signed this morning. He said he had decided to settle the case rather than wait for the legal process to unfold because of the expense, length and uncertainty of litigation, which would take years to resolve.

    “This step was logical both in terms of saving money in litigation costs, but also resolving it much quicker than litigation could,” he said.

    The agreement prohibits using any building on the property for “the feeding, breeding, raising or holding of animals” that is “specifically designed as a confinement area where manure may accumulate.”

    However, it authorizes activities such as soil cultivation and free-range livestock excluding swine. The animals can’t be confined or maintained on the property for more than 44 days a year. Only two “animal units” are allowed per acre, with large animals such as cows and horses counting as one unit, medium animals including sheep and goats counting as .5 animal units, and small animals including fowl counting as .1 animal units. Forestry is allowed, as are recreational activities and single family dwellings.

    The Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, which has long opposed the hog farm, said in an email sent to supporters, “This closure announcement is what we have all been seeking for 6 long years.” It said it would continue to monitor the closure process and said other threats to the river exist.

  • 13 Jun 2019 12:58 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Arkansas Times

    State strikes deal to remove hog farm from Buffalo River watershed


    Max Brantley

    On June 13, 2019

    Gov. Asa Hutchinson used an appearance before the Arkansas Municipal League today to announce that a deal had been struck to remove the C and H factory hog feeding operation from the Buffalo River watershed.

    The farmers will get $6.2 million, mostly public money but also from the Nature Conservancy, to take their hog waste away.

    The farm has been an enormous controversy since it was approved with little notice during the Beebe administration. The owners, with significant support from the Arkansas Farm Bureau, have resisted efforts to shut it down. Lawsuits and regulatory hearings have dragged on as environmentalists argued that the porous limestone geology beneath the concentrated animal feeding operation allowed hog waste to seep into the water table and that land application of waste had also contributed to runoff that was polluting a nearby stream that feeds into the Buffalo National River, a prime tourist attraction. Coincidentally or not, the river has been marred recently by heavy algae growth.

    The deal will include a payment, including state money, to the farm operators, who were under contract to supply pork to one of the world’s largest protein producers, JBSBrazil.  The state will get a conservation easement that ends a hog feeding operation on the farm at Mount Judea in Newton County.

    The operators, while suing to get a permit for continued operation, had also been investigating other potential sites. One in Franklin County was recently imperiled by the Arkansas River flooding, but a spokesman for Arkansas Pork Producers told me then that an effort to get a permit for a hog farm there had been withdrawn. The agreement today makes no mention of future plans by the hog farmers.

    In the recent legislative session, the Farm Bureau narrowly failed in a push to remove hog farm regulation from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality and move it to an agency where local farmers have strong influence and without less scientific expertise. The governor had urged a delay in that legislation after it passed the Senate. It was pulled down after it ran into House opposition.

    Opponents had developed a scathing attack on the hog triangle created by the farm: The farm sends dollars to Brazil (JBS); JBS sends pork chops to China, the farm sends hog manure to the Buffalo River.

    It’s a big win for the governor.

  • 13 Jun 2019 8:37 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Legalruralism Blog

    by Lisa Pruitt

    THURSDAY, JUNE 13, 2019

    The end of a story that's gotten a lot of attention on Legal Ruralism: $6.2 million settlement closes industrial hog farm in my home county

    I have spilled a lot of (proverbial) ink on this concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) story since 2013, when I wrote posts like this one (and note its two prior embedded posts) about an industrial hog farm that slipped by regulators to get a permit for siting in the watershed of Arkansas's Buffalo National River, a major tourist attraction and ecotourism revenue driver for the state.  These events happened in my "own backyard" (or at least that of my mom, as I no longer liver in Arkansas), which helps my explain my engagement (and outrage).  Never mind the many blog posts about the "hog farm" here on Legal Ruralism, I even wrote an academic journal article about this matter, as well as an op-ed in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

    I hadn't been following the matter very closely in recent months, though I knew the industrial hog farm owners, under contract with JBS of Brazil, had lost some recent legal bouts with environmental interests over renewal of permits, including permits for where they could spread the hog manure.

    So, imagine my delight when the (Republican) governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson, made what has been billed as a "surprise" announcement that the State of Arkansas had reached a settlement to pay the owners of the hog farm $6.2 million to close the operation and grant the State of Arkansas a conservation easement.  The owners of the hog farm will retain a "fee simple" in the farmland, which sits right on the banks of Big Creek (a Buffalo River tributary), and across that creek from the Mt. Judea School.  Most of the funds going to the buyout will come from the state's coffers, but up to a million will be paid by The Nature Conservancy.

    Perhaps most interesting is that Governor Hutchinson commented today, when announcing the settlement while speaking to the 85th Annual Arkansas Municipal League Convention, commented  the permit to the CAFO should never have been granted.  That's a dig at his Democratic predecessor, Mike Beebe, on whose watch the permit slipped (or was pushed?) through the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.  I've never quite been able to figure out (and as far as I know, no one else has either), whether the primary culprit was an ignorant bureaucrat or one on the take from corporate or business interests.  When the hog farm was built--essentially in secrecy--the farmers were to be under contract with Cargill, but Cargill's hog operations were eventually sold to JBS.   As I detailed in my academic journal article, the USDA approved loans for the hog farm, but it did so with a particularly shoddy environmental impact statement that did not acknowledge environmental justice concerns (Mt. Judea is the poorest part of a persistent poverty county, Newton County).

    Here's a quote about what's next, from today's coverage in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, as well as some early backlash against the settlement.

    In the recent legislative session, the Farm Bureau narrowly failed in a push to remove hog farm regulation from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality and move it to an agency where local farmers have strong influence and without less scientific expertise. The governor had urged a delay in that legislation after it passed the Senate. It was pulled down after it ran into House opposition
    Opponents had developed a scathing attack on the hog triangle created by the farm: The farm sends dollars to Brazil (JBS); JBS sends pork chops to China, the farm sends hog manure to the Buffalo River. 
    It’s a big win for the governor, though some social media criticism has already broken out about the $6.2 million payment. “Negotiating with terrorists,” was how one environmentalist put it.
    And here's Governor Hutchison's Tweet about the matter.

    The one commenter on that Tweet said, "More of that Republican Socialism.  It's only bad when they're helping the poor."   Hutchinson has drawn national attention to Arkansas for his advocacy and imposition of work requirements for safety net programs, such as the state's Medicaid expansion.  



  • 12 Jun 2019 1:44 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Springfield News-Leader


    Bill ending local CAFO control is a threat to waters

    Loring Bullard, Linda Chorice, Barbara Lucks, John Madras, Todd Parnell, Joe Pitts, Barry Rowell, Beth Siegfried, Tim Smith, Terry Whaley

    Published 6:30 p.m. CT June 12, 2019

    This is a message to raise awareness, a "wake-up call" of sorts.

    Those of us listed below have come together as citizens to express our concerns about a little known action taken by the Missouri legislature in the final week of session regarding factory farms known as Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), and the authority of locally elected county officials, or "local control." We fear that the action presents a serious potential threat to water quality and quality of life in the Ozarks.

    We have all worked for and with water science and advocacy groups in leadership roles and are committed to keeping our Ozarks waters clean forever. Our purpose in sharing this message is to ensure that this threat does not go unnoticed.

    Let's begin with the bill, SB 391, that passed and the chilling effect it has on our ability to protect the Ozarks from corporate farms. It bans counties in Missouri from enacting regulations for corporate, often foreign-owned, farms that are more stringent than state regulations. The Missouri legislature has steadily diminished these laws over the past five years to encourage the expansion of factory farms.

    Counties in the Ozarks potentially impacted by this bill include Greene and Stone, which had previously passed county zoning ordinances, and Dade and Cedar, which had county health ordinances in place that prohibit or limit the size of CAFOs.

    Loss of local control removes the last line of defense for communities that do not want the stench, threats to water supplies and loss of property values that accompany such huge corporate operations.

    For those who may not know, CAFOs are large, open-air buildings or feedlots with cattle, hogs, turkeys or chickens jammed beak to tail feather or snout to bottom for fattening up. A CAFO is defined by the number of animals confined, with 1,000 or more cattle, 5,000-10,000 pigs and 35,000-40,000 chickens or turkeys as the norm. Their excrement ends up in open-air lagoons or underlying pits until it is sprayed on or injected into adjoining fields, or transferred for offsite application. Concentrated animal waste is particularly damaging in the Ozarks, where rain, runoff and seepage through shallow soils represent a clear and present danger to the unique Ozarks karst topography of springs, creeks, streams, lakes and water tables. Once a CAFO is permitted, it is not easy to limit its growth and environmental impact or get rid of it.

    Just ask our neighbors to the south along the Buffalo National River. In 2012, local families colluded with a major international conglomerate to place a 6,500-pig CAFO next to Big Creek, a major tributary of the Buffalo National River, just six miles from its confluence with the river. This facility was permitted by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality and continues to spew untreated waste into the Buffalo, despite refusal of the same agency to renew the permit last year. The dispute languishes in the court system and likely will for the foreseeable future.

    True family farming has been a valued and respected way of life in the Ozarks since its beginnings. There is no family farming going on here. It is an international meat factory that has caused the beautiful Buffalo River to become clogged with green algae.

    Since 2013, politicians in Jefferson City have steadily diluted regulation of CAFOs to attract their business from states that are becoming more vigilant in oversight. During that time period, construction permit requirements have been waived, and the need to demonstrate "continuing authority," or the ability of owners to provide evidence of financial viability to properly manage operations, has been eliminated.

    Perhaps most damaging, the Missouri Clean Water Commission, which issues CAFO permits, has been stacked with agricultural interests, thus crippling the last venue for citizen intervention in environmental destruction and corporate avarice beyond local control, which has now been stripped by legislators. What until recently was a requirement that four of seven commissioners be "independent" and representative of the general public has been legislated out of existence.

    If Missouri legislators wish to make our state into the largest hog-producing state in the nation, there is not much we can do beyond voting against them. But doesn't it seem a bit hypocritical that these same legislators who rail against too much government interference think it is fine for the state to override laws passed by local citizens to protect their own communities?

    And if a 6,500-pig confined animal feeding operation can suddenly appear along America's first national river in the heart of the Ozarks, the same could now happen in Dade, Cedar, Stone and even Greene counties with this new ban on local control.

    Our Ozarks landscapes and waters are particularly vulnerable and unsuited for CAFOs. We urge people of the Ozarks to make their voices heard. We will aggressively fight the expansion of large corporate farms into the fragile topography and bountiful waters of the Ozarks. We hope you will join us.

    Loring Bullard, retired director, Watershed Committee of the Ozarks

    Linda Chorice, retired manager, Springfield Conservation Nature Center

    Barbara Lucks, former sustainability officer, city of Springfield (retired), now in private consulting

    John Madras, retired director, Water Protection Program, Missouri Department of Natural Resources

    Todd Parnell, retired member and chairman of the Missouri Clean Water Commission

    Joe Pitts, retired director, James River Basin Partnership

    Barry Rowell, retired fire chief, city of Springfield

    Beth Siegfried, retired educator

    Tim Smith, retired Greene County and city of Springfield administration

    Terry Whaley, retired director, Ozarks Greenways

  • 12 Jun 2019 8:23 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Democrat Gazette

    Buffalo River Alliance, Arkansas Canoe Club to sue hog farm

    by Staff Report | June 12, 2019 

    The Buffalo River Watershed Alliance and the Arkansas Canoe Club announced a Notice of Intent to sue C&H Hog Farms, Inc. due to violations of the Clean Water Act, according to a news release from the alliance.

    The Buffalo River Alliance claims C&H has illegally discharged swine waste, applied for a permit by misrepresenting facts and operated its facilities without a valid permit, according to the release.

    C&H is "attempting to extend coverage of its now-expired General Permit coverage" by appealing decisions of the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission and filing suit against the state Department of Environmental Quality, the alliance claims in the release.

    The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality denied a Regulation 5 permit application by C&H after the farm's permit lapsed.

    The Buffalo River Alliance and the Arkansas Canoe Club will file suit against C&H in U.S. District Court if the violations are not corrected within 60 days, the release stated.

    NW News on 06/13/2019

  • 09 Jun 2019 9:14 AM | Anonymous member

    Mountainous waste

    Duane Woltjen, an active member of (and leader in) virtually all environmental efforts across our state, and an advocate for our Buffalo National River, wrote to comment on my column in response to Warren Carter's May 16 guest essay explaining why the Farm Bureau supports the controversial C&H Hog Farms at Mount Judea.

    Educated as a mechanical engineer, Woltjen stays current with the latest developments with C&H and its 6,500 swine, whose enormous amounts of waste are regularly spread across the Buffalo watershed.

    Accordingly, he shared some calculations about how much leaking waste is actually approved for release into the karst subsurface on and around the spray fields.

    First, he explained that the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (cough) allows 5,000 gallons a day for each acre of sewage containment ponds. That's cited in the factory's application to the agency. Such a distinction matters because the factory's two ponds contain about 1.232 acres, which equals over 6,100 gallons leaked daily.

    "So how much is that if spread across a college football field, which is 360 by 160 feet including the end zones, 160 times 360 feet equals 57,600 square feet," he reasoned. "And 6,158 leaked gallons a day per acre times 365 days a year amounts to 2,247,670 allowable gallons annually.

    "If we spread those millions of gallons times 0.1337 cubic feet-per-gallon, that equals 300,470 cubic feet annually. That amount spread over 57,600 square feet totals 5.2 feet deep across a football field. And that's just what's allowable. This means ADEQ would not consider it a violation if the ponds have leaked enough waste to cover a football field to an accumulated depth of 36 feet," since its now-defunct Regulation 6 permit was issued in 2012.

    He also wondered whether the department or the C&H operators (who are obligated to "self-report" leakage) even know if their ponds leaked that much or even more. Would it be obvious? If so, how? Records show the last recorded agency inspection of this factory was in 2016.

    "Calculations reveal those 6,158 allowable leaking gallons daily will lower the level of the ponds 0.184 inches. With waste constantly flowing in, then withdrawn to spray across fields along and around tributary Big Creek, I'm betting nobody will notice 3/16 of an inch change in a pond level," Woltjen continued. "So pond leakage would be basically concealed from scrutiny."

    Reader Patricia Heck wrote a while back to summarize this once-avoidable mess: "Thanks for your efforts to save the Buffalo River from the grasping greed and politics in our society. I love farmers (even those supported by my tax money) but hog farms do not belong above a major tributary of the Buffalo.

    "I grew up on a farm and recognize a pig pen when I see one, and I question the motivation of the Farm Bureau and the University of Arkansas Agricultural Extension Service. Has greed surpassed conservation at our Buffalo National River as it has in other national parks?"

    Meanwhile, the National Park Service in a new release estimates 1.2 million visitors pumped $54.9 million into the region during 2018.

    I'm hoping Asa Hutchinson's legacy will be as the governor who closed this grossly mislocated factory (still operating without a permit) if it's not too late.


    Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.

    Editorial on 06/09/2019

  • 09 Jun 2019 9:12 AM | Anonymous member

    Inquiry is nearly finished at JBSBrazil meat giant adheres to orderby GERSON FREITAS JR. BLOOMBERG NEWS | Today at 1:43 a.m

    JBS SA is close to completing an internal investigation that stands to give Brazilian prosecutors additional evidence of wrongdoing as part of a leniency deal in a corruption scandal.

    The Sao Paulo meat giant and other companies controlled by the billionaire Batista brothers may be ready by September to present results of the independent investigation that has collected about 220 terabytes of data from mobile phones and computers and testimony from more than 600 people, according to Emir Calluf Filho, legal and compliance director at J&F Investimentos SA, the Batistas' holding company.

    Concluding the internal review will be another significant step toward normalcy for the world's biggest meat company after a scandal that broke two years ago. The Batista group has sought to restore credibility after brothers Joesley and Wesley admitted to bribing hundreds of politicians and inspectors in a case that sent JBS shares and bonds tumbling and hit Brazilian markets already rocked by the so-called Carwash kickback investigation.

    Back then, J&F agreed to pay $2.66 billion as part of a leniency deal to protect JBS and other businesses from charges. It also committed to work with third-party forensic firms to scrutinize past transactions while implementing a compliance program to avoid new illicit acts.

    "That's the biggest private investigation ever conducted by a Brazilian company," 39-year-old Calluf Filho said in Sao Paulo. The findings should provide authorities with robust evidence of the wrongdoings unveiled by the brothers, he said. Potential omissions in their confessions are also being investigated.

    More than 200 people and companies -- including cattle suppliers, law firms and consultancies -- have been blocked from doing business with the Batistas' empire, and "several" others are facing due-diligence procedures as a result of stricter controls and background checking, Calluf Filho said.

    More than 130,000 workers were trained on compliance, and internal accusations soared tenfold to about 200 a month after independent reporting channels were made available. People faced warning, resignation or prosecution because of wrongdoings. Some were relocated after receiving death threats for suspending illicit payments.

    JBS has also made governance progress after naming executives from outside the Batista clan for top posts -- including chief executive and financial officers -- for the first time in its 66-year history, Calluf Filho said. Still, family members remain in management and board positions.

    The Batista brothers, who spent about six months in jail after the scandal broke, were forced out of day-to-day operations in the company founded in 1953 by their father. Still, a new generation of Batistas -- led by Wesley's 27-year-old son, who bears his name, and his 26-year-old cousin Aguinaldo Gomes Ramos Filho -- is now taking the helm.

    "It's a family company, like most Brazilian firms," Calluf Filho said, adding the Batistas are committed to improving the group's reputation. "There's no turning back."

    Wesley Batista senior recently became a defendant in an investigation into alleged insider trading in the days before news of the plea bargain deal broke. J&F is yet to reach a deal with the U.S. Department of Justice to avoid prosecution under U.S. anti-bribery laws.

    Calluf Filho took over as a J&F executive in late 2017 against the advice of friends worried about him getting involved in a company that had been tainted by one of the biggest-ever corruption scandals in Brazil.

    "Many people thought I was crazy," he said. "But if you're able to change a company that has the power to transform its sector, you may also be helping to change the country."

    JBS shares have more than tripled in value since the lows of 2017. In the past year, the company has been the best-performing global meat stock tracked by Bloomberg, aided by the outbreak of a pig-killing disease in Asia that signals additional protein demand.

    SundayMonday Business on 06/09/2019

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