Buffalo River Watershed Alliance

Log in

what's New This Page contains all Media posts

  • 21 Jan 2020 8:22 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    KUAF Radio

    C&H Hog Farms Cleanup Plan Unclear, Stakeholders Say


    Listen to the broadcast

    An industrial swine-breeding facility permitted by the state to operate on the Buffalo National River Watershed is undergoing cleanup this week. C&H Hog Farms terminated operations early this month under a negotiated settlement with Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism. A contractor is now tasked with removing millions of gallons of swing sludge from lagoons on the property.

  • 18 Jan 2020 9:23 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)




    by Mike Masterson | January 18, 2020 at 1:49 a.m.

    It was a development that for seven uncertain years marked by controversy, legal disputes and rancor, few believed would come to pass.

    Yet thanks to Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the enduring efforts by so many concerned Arkansas citizens and determined environmental activist groups, the C&H Hog Farms operation perched above and along a tributary to our treasured Buffalo National River is now officially closed. Well, OK, almost.

    Although the 6,500 swine are gone, the factory is not fully shut down because the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (cough) who wrongheadedly allowed the factory into the watershed still must clean out the large raw-waste ponds and areas around the two massive barns before the official closure plan (which folks have yet to see) has been completed.

    Only then will it be permanently and officially shut down. I suppose it's best (with lawyers involved) to say the barns are now empty and C&H has satisfied the requirements of their settlement agreement and vacated the premises.

    Environmental reporter Emily Walkenhorst wrote the news account last week saying that, according to the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, Arkansas (with financial assistance from The Nature Conservancy) paid the farmers $6.2 million in exchange for the closure.

    That means the state now possesses the land in the form of a conservation easement, and this controversy mercifully has squealed to a halt (couldn't resist).

    Valued readers know I became invested over the years in writing continuously about this travesty the Department of Environmental Quality should never have surreptitiously approved in 2012.

    I wrote often (and intensely at times) about the disgraceful way this arrangement had been struck only because I always have held deep affections for this river and all it means to my native state. I was born not far from it and spent many days enjoying its clear spring-fed waters.

    The secrecy surrounding the state's original permit for this factory--in cooperation with Cargill Inc. (later bought out by JBS of Brazil)--to me smacked of good-ol'-boyism and seemed far beyond simply suspicious or coincidental. Even today I believe the circumstances of that questionable approval still deserve deeper official investigation.

    Even the Department of Environmental Quality's own director at the time said she didn't know the factory had been approved until after it was a done deal.

    Simply put, a certain group of agency employees at the time permitted the mega-waste-generating factory to operate in a karst-riddled environment without insisting on extensive studies on groundwater flow and safety, despite the agency's own regulations that demanded that. Many also wonder how and why that happened.

    Making matters worse, former Gov. Mike Beebe, on whose watch this travesty unfolded, later said he didn't know at the time that the factory had been permitted. In an interview as he departed office, Beebe said he considered allowing the factory into the watershed his biggest regret. I can imagine. That's not the kind of legacy any governor would care to claim.

    As I've also written multiple times in what had to approach 100 columns (some understandably grew weary of such persistence), the fault for this suspicious and unacceptable permit was not shouldered by the farm's owners. To the contrary, I believe they did everything our state asked of them (such as that was).

    Instead, the Department of Environmental Quality, as the purported gatekeeper in this instance, gets the fullest possible measure of responsibility for ever allowing a concentrated animal feeding operation (aka CAFO) into this fragile watershed. After all, it is the very region this same department years earlier had protected against such factories with a moratorium.

    The agency involved obviously had to have known better going into the deal it approved.

    As Walkenhorst wrote, the land in question has been placed in a state conservation easement managed by Parks, Tourism and Heritage, thus hopefully marking a new beginning for the watershed.

    The governor publicly said he appreciated the willingness of the Campbell and Henson families of Newton County to work with the state in purchasing their sizable investment.

    "Now [I] 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," he said in the news release from the Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism.

    Department Secretary Stacy Hurst said in the release, "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."

    One who must be particularly relieved at the closure is Gordon Watkins, whose Buffalo River Watershed Alliance was instrumental in relentlessly fighting the factory's permitting and location.

    Watkins and his alliance were united with other concerned Arkansas environmental groups and individuals such as geosciences professor emeritus Dr. John Van Brahana and Brahana's volunteers, who remained dedicated to preserving the quality of the Buffalo.

    All the people and groups who rose to steadfastly defend the river are to be commended for standing tall in what's been called the second battle to save the Buffalo National River (designated as such in 1972).

    "I'm glad that we've reached this milestone, and hopefully we can get the closure plan finalized in a not-too-long period of time and we can put this thing to bed," Watkins told the reporter.

    Meanwhile, we can ask ourselves what happens now since the fields along Big Creek have been continuously sprayed with millions of gallons of raw waste for six years.

    The waste contains phosphorus and nitrogen, both fertilizers that can trigger massive algae blooms in freshwater streams. Miles of the Buffalo in recent years have become choked with the dark green stuff, which in some instances can be toxic.

    The spray fields in question are along or near Big Creek, which flows 6.6 miles downstream into the Buffalo, a portion of which in the past two years, along with Big Creek, has been declared impaired.

    As this contaminating waste soaks through the relatively thin layer of topsoil and into the fractured limestone beneath, varying amounts will lodge in the karst honeycomb of crevasses and caves. There it can remain for years as it steadily washes into the water table with each major rainfall.

    This means our Buffalo may well be feeling the negative effects of those millions of gallons for decades to come. And that would indeed be a terrible shame for those who enjoy our state's magnificent river.

    Now go out into the world and treat everyone you meet exactly like you want them to treat you.

    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.

    Web only on 01/18/2020

    Print Headline: MASTERSON ONLINE: Hogs gone

  • 07 Jan 2020 8:27 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Arkansas Democrat Gazette

    Payment made, state gains hog farm land; Buffalo River’s protection still seen as priority

    by Emily Walkenhorst

    Arkansas has paid the owners of C&H Hog Farms $6.2 million for their former farmland in the Buffalo River watershed, and the state now possesses the land in the form of a conservation easement.

    Completion of the agreement between the state and the farm's owners was announced Monday in a news release from the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism.

    No plans have been announced for the land, but its transfer to the state as a conservation easement -- which limits its potential uses -- is the beginning of a new chapter for the river's watershed.

    The watershed received renewed attention and protection efforts as a result of the farm's opening in 2013. But the farm's nearly completed closure -- the state is responsible for the closure of two manure holding ponds on the property -- won't spell the end of efforts to help protect the country's first "national" river.

    "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," Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in the news release from the Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, which will manage the easement.

    "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," department Secretary Stacy Hurst said in the release.

    The conservation easement signals the near end of the farm, but the debate over whether it was hurting the environment is still unsettled.

    "I'm glad that we've reached this milestone, and hopefully we can get the closure plan finalized in a not-too-long period of time and we can put this thing to bed," said Gordon Watkins, president of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance.

    The farm's land sits on Big Creek, about 6.6 miles from where it flows into the Buffalo River. For the past several years, people from Arkansas and from across the nation have expressed concern about the possibility of manure -- applied as fertilizer -- running off the property and into the water, or about the possibility of a major storm event overfilling the ponds that hold thousands of gallons of hog manure.

    Research paid for by the state, conducted by the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, has not concluded that C&H negatively affected water quality in Big Creek or the Buffalo River.

    In recent years, the Buffalo River has struggled with algal blooms along tens of miles of its middle section and high E. coli levels near the Big Creek intersection.

    Because algae-causing nutrients can build up and embed in soil years before leaching into water, groups like the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance have asked that the state or federal government continue robust monitoring on Big Creek and the Buffalo River. The state has monitors on both, but the study sampled from more locations on a more frequent basis. 

    C&H, permitted with little public notice in 2012, was allowed to house up to 6,503 hogs, although it normally operated with about 3,000.

    In June, Hutchinson announced the state would buy out the farm after more than six years of operation. The farm was by far the largest in the watershed and one of the largest in the state.

    The buyout agreement stipulated the payment, the easement and the dismissal of each lawsuit C&H had brought against the state. The lawsuits were mostly related to recent denials of C&H's operating permit applications, although one concerned an alleged violation of the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act by state environmental regulators after records sought by the farmers were not procured within three days of the farmers' request.

    That announcement was followed by the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission's decision to permanently ban any federally classified medium or large hog farms in the watershed. That decision is pending public comments and eventually legislative review, and some commenters have contended that the ban has potential loopholes that would allow a facility similar to C&H to open there.

    Arkansas paid $6.2 million, using state and donated money, to the farmers after the final hogs were removed from the premises. About $3.7 million came from the governor's rainy-day fund; another $1.5 million came from the Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism; and the final $1 million came from The Nature Conservancy. About $2.4 million of that was used to pay off the farm's remaining debt.

    C&H began removing hogs from its property last fall. They were reportedly gone before Christmas, Watkins said.

    Operations have ceased at the premises, and all that is left to do to close the facility is emptying the manure ponds. The Arkansas Division of Environmental Quality will be responsible for that part but is reviewing public comments on its proposed method.

    Work to improve the Buffalo River's present and future remains.

    "We're not going away," Watkins said.

    The Buffalo River Watershed Alliance formed in 2013 specifically to oppose the farm's presence within the watershed and so close to the river and a major tributary of it.

    Even without considering C&H's potential effect, the river suffers from too many nutrients loading into the water from long-ago agricultural practices and current wastewater treatment plant failures, Watkins said.

    He said he wants to promote best practices in agriculture that would reduce the amount of phosphorus or nitrogen applied to land, which can leach into water. Those elements are nutrients, which in higher amounts can result in oxygen deficiencies and algae growth.

    Wastewater plants in Jasper, Marble Falls and Marshall need help and funding to properly function, Watkins said. In those areas, not enough people are in the wastewater systems to pay to maintain them, he said.

    Watkins said he would like to see those towns get the assistance they need, possibly with the state's Buffalo River Conservation Committee helping to leverage federal funds.

    A Section on 01/07/2020

  • 06 Jan 2020 4:17 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Arkansas Times

    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.

  • 29 Dec 2019 8:43 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)



    The 2020 wish list

    by Rex Nelson 

    I've never been a fan of New Year's resolutions. And I'm certainly not a fan of the New Year's resolution newspaper column, which always seems contrived. But as another year of traveling Arkansas comes to a close, I do have a list of things I would like see happen in our state in 2020.

    • I would like to see Arkansans focus more on keeping the state's streams clean. We're blessed with beautiful rivers, creeks and bayous. In a place that markets itself as the Natural State, however, we've too often been guilty of, at best, ignoring our natural treasures. At worst, we've polluted and channelized them.

    The biggest policy story in Arkansas in 2019 came when Gov. Asa Hutchinson took the courageous stand of having the state enter into a $6.2 million buyout agreement with C&H Hog Farms, which operated in the Buffalo National River watershed. I use the term "courageous" because the governor bucked powerful special interests in order to protect the first stream in the United States to be designated as a national river.

    Want an example of how bitter these special interests still are about his decision? Try this on for size: I was fired from my gig of emceeing the annual Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame banquet for having supported the governor's position.

    The large-scale hog farm and its manure ponds were on Big Creek, 6.6 miles from where it flows into the Buffalo. My hope is that the media attention on the fight to protect the Buffalo will encourage groups and individuals across the state to adopt other streams. The Arkansas Game & Fish Commission has a program called Stream Teams that can facilitate those efforts. If we're truly the Natural State, that program should be the strongest of its type in the country.

    • While we're at it, it would be nice to see additional affiliates of the Keep Arkansas Beautiful program formed across the state. God gave us a gorgeous place to live, but we do an effective job of trashing it. There should be dozens of new Keep Arkansas Beautiful chapters with thousands of volunteers picking up trash, planting wildflowers and doing other things to improve the quality of life for residents of Arkansas. Outside of the state's natural beauty, the things that strike me most as I travel Arkansas on a weekly basis are the junk in yards and the trash along the highways. Some days I want to cry. It's high time that we clean up our act.

    • I would like to see the governor and the 135 members of the Legislature finally come to the realization that there's far more to education than K-12. We've starved higher education in this state for years, and it's starting to bite us. Henderson State University, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and the University of Arkansas at Monticello all changed presidents or chancellors this year in the wake of severe financial problems. In the knowledge-based economy of the 21st century, we must have more people with either an associate's degree from one of the state's 22 two-year schools or a bachelor's degree, a master's degree or a doctorate from one of its four-year colleges or universities. Here's the bottom line: We're not going to make a serious move in increasing per capita income in Arkansas until that happens. For the life of me, I can't figure out why our legislators don't get it.

    • I would like to see those who are already positioning themselves to run for governor in 2022 realize that Arkansas' turnaround the past 50 years has been due in part to a string of moderate, pragmatic governors. From 1940-60, Arkansas lost a higher percentage of its population than any other state. We've been gaining population since the late 1960s. What happened? Since the election of Winthrop Rockefeller as governor in 1966, we've been fortunate to have a series of pragmatists in the governor's office. Five of those governors have been Democrats. Four have been Republicans. None governed from the far right or far left. The last thing Arkansas needs at this point in its history is an ideologue in the governor's mansion. Arkansas voters need to pay close attention to how potential candidates present themselves.

    • I would like to see business and civic leaders quit viewing economic development as landing manufacturing plants (you've been stuck in that mode since the 1950s and it's no longer working) and instead focus on the things that attract talented people to a state: revitalized downtowns, improved parks, hiking and biking trails, restaurants and craft breweries, historic preservation. Economic development has changed but there unfortunately are still plenty of chamber of commerce types out there who haven't gotten the message.

    • I would like to see the remaining small daily newspapers and weekly newspapers across this state thrive along with the handful of radio stations that have the courage to focus on local news and information. Democracy in Arkansas will suffer without media watchdogs in all 75 counties. These are the people who keep an eye on school boards, city councils and county quorum courts. We here at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette can't cover it all.

    It has been a sad period for newspapers in Arkansas. In one fell swoop, for example, that evil media empire known as Gatehouse left my entire home area (Arkadelphia, Gurdon, Prescott and Hope) without local newspapers. This is dangerous. It's time for Arkansans to support newspapers with their subscriptions and Arkansas businesses to support newspapers and those radio stations that cover local events with their advertising dollars. Believe me, you'll miss local media when it's gone.

    • I would like to see landowners become partners in the quail restoration efforts being undertaken by Quail Forever and the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission. These efforts not only will result in the return of the bobwhite (quail hunting was once an integral part of the rural culture of Arkansas) but also aid songbirds and pollinators. Once again it comes down to either being the Natural State or just claiming to be in ads.

    • I would like to see the tens of thousands of acres of marginal farmland in the Arkansas Delta that were cleared for crop production back when soybean prices were high returned to bottomland hardwoods. The Walton Family Foundation has been involved in this effort. With all due respect to the quality-of-life projects the foundation has undertaken in northwest Arkansas, there's nothing this well-funded organization could do that would have more of a positive long-term effect on Arkansas than hardwood restoration.

    • There are three major things that can still unite people in all 75 counties of what's otherwise a highly disparate state. They are a pragmatic, smart, charismatic governor who understands all parts of Arkansas; a strong statewide newspaper; and the athletic program at the University of Arkansas.

    Along those lines, I selfishly hope that Arkansans will get subscriptions to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, which is going digital-only six days a week in 63 of the 75 counties. We're about the last man standing when it comes to statewide newspapers that try to cover news, business and sports in every county of a state.

    I would also like to see Hunter Yurachek, the UA athletic director, come to the realization that the Razorback football team needs to play in Little Rock every season, not every other season. In his years as athletic director, Jeff Long destroyed the statewide support it had taken Frank Broyles four decades to build. Annual Little Rock games are key to rebuilding that support. It's about far more than sports. It's about uniting a state. I trust that Yurachek is smart enough to realize that. At least he's trying to understand this unique place called Arkansas, something Long never did.


    Rex Nelson is a senior editor at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

    Editorial on 12/29/2019

  • 10 Dec 2019 3:08 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    FRAN ALEXANDER: The problem with poop

    Manure on ground can mean it’s in the water

    Nope, the fat lady hasn't sung yet. This opera just goes on and on as the story of the second saving of Arkansas' Buffalo River keeps unfolding. But its future still hangs on a low note of which few people are aware. Supporters of a clean river must don their horned helmets yet again to go forth into what, hopefully, is the final battle to save the country's first national river from hog manure.

    I know the hog farm is closing. And yes, I know that Gov. Asa Hutchinson did what Gov. Mike Beebe should have done. He finally spearheaded the closure of an operation that should never have been permitted. The state and the Nature Conservancy anted up more than $6 million to compensate the farm owners for their investment. The governor has set up the Beautiful Buffalo River Action Committee to develop a non-regulatory watershed-based management plan. And he also has established the Buffalo River Conservation Committee "to prioritize and fund projects that would be supported by farmers and the local communities." But, most importantly, the governor supports a permanent moratorium on medium and large (swine) confined animal feeding operations, known in government circles as CAFOs, in the river's watershed.

    So, why can't that mythical, plump soprano sing loudly in joy and jubilation declaring an end to this manure madness? Well, because that last item, the permanent moratorium, has to pass by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, then the state's Pollution Control and Ecology Commission, and then be approved, or not, by the Arkansas Legislative Council to become a reality. So, this saga ain't over yet.

    The five-year moratorium on swine feeding operations in this watershed runs out next year, which is why there is a push for a permanent solution. Arkansas citizens have already sent in statements this year regarding this moratorium, with four hundred commenters supporting permanent protection and two opposed: the Farm Bureau and the Arkansas Pork Producers Association.

    Politics and power being what they are, the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission has agreed to reopen the moratorium question for yet more comments until Jan. 22. Ostensibly this 90-day period is for review of a report on the farm's nutrient management and the impact on Big Creek, the tributary to the Buffalo that runs near the hog farm. I doubt anything in this report changes what pig poop is made of, however, nor solves the engineering conundrum that water runs downhill and takes stuff along with it.

    Water not only runs downhill, it also seeps into the ground. When spread over hillside fields with thin soil cover, hog manure doesn't just sit there. Too much of this fertilizer oversaturates the soil, and then travels into creeks, rivers and underground springs. Phosphorus feeds algae growth, which has led sections of Big Creek and the Buffalo River to be declared "impaired." This status can mean fishing, swimming and canoeing are affected negatively or are prohibited if severe enough to warrant health risks. Algae blooms can also wreak havoc on ecosystems in the water and on land.

    It is logical that if only one large feeding operation has been degrading the water this much that more swine farms would destroy this river, considered by many to be the state's greatest tourist attraction. It is just foolish and dangerous to ever allow industrial farming operations in this geologically unsuitable area of the state.

    What this new comment period (now active until 4:30 p.m. Jan. 22) means is that we must comment again, or for the first time if you're new to this issue, to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality at: reg-comment@adeq.state.ar.us. Or, written comments go to: Jacob Harper, Department of Energy and Environment, 5301 Northshore Drive, North Little Rock, AR 72118.

    As an early Christmas gift to yourself, to the state and to the nation, please send your comments in now so you don't forget before the deadline. And, also thank the governor for supporting a permanent moratorium on confined animal feeding operations in this watershed. His stand on this issue may become one of his most notable accomplishments.

    If you want to learn more, check out the website of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, which has pushed for saving this river from pollution for six long years. This fight has been one marked by great endurance fed by love for this river.

    Nowadays instead of "Save the Buffalo River -- Again!" the mission of all the people of Arkansas should be to "Save the Buffalo River -- Forever! "

    Commentary on 12/10/2019

  • 08 Dec 2019 8:39 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Springfield News-Leader

    Pokin Around: I thought we liked local control over local issues; just not with CAFOs?

    Steve Pokin, Springfield News-LeaderPublished 10:00 p.m. CT Dec. 7, 2019

    Back in November, two of the three members of the Greene County Board of Commissioners failed, in my view,  to stand up for local control over what might become a local issue.

    The comments made by Presiding Commissioner Bob Dixon bothered me then and they bother me today.

    Dixon explained in November that he would not ask the commission to vote on a non-binding resolution criticizing a new state law on concentrated area feeding operations (CAFOs) because he didn't want to upset the Republican lawmakers from Greene County who voted for it.

    My first thought: Does Dixon realize he's no longer a Republican state lawmaker?

    He became presiding commissioner after serving eight years in the House and another eight in the state Senate. He is a Republican, as are the other two commissioners — Harold Bengsch and John C. Russell, who was appointed to the board by Republican Gov. Mike Parson in January.

    I've always found Dixon to be thoughtful. I too will do my best to be thoughtful in this column.

    When voters chose Dixon as presiding commissioner in November 2018, they weren't sending him back to Jefferson City.

    He was elected to represent those of us here at the Greene County level.

    I don't remember him pledging in his campaign: "Bob Dixon: I Promise to Never Upset Our GOP State Lawmakers."

    The resolution was brought to the county by two City Council members: Andy Lear and Mike Schilling, a former Democratic state representative. Council members do not have to run as Republicans or Democrats.

    Lear and Schilling view the new law as an intrusion into local control of local issues.

    The law says that no local governmental body, including and most importantly counties, can have tighter controls on CAFO operations than the state of Missouri.

    A CAFO is an operation in which thousands of pigs or chickens can be housed in roofed buildings on a single property.

    CAFOs have prompted concerns about water pollution and manure-fueled odors here and in other states — including Iowa, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Arkansas.

    In Arkansas, a hog farm was approved years ago in the watershed of an Ozarks treasure, the Buffalo National River.

    The hog farm, six miles from the Buffalo, ended operations in June, when Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced the shutdown.

    Up until June, the owners of C&H Hog Farms, with support from the Arkansas Farm Bureau, had resisted efforts to close or relocate.

    Hearings had dragged on for years as environmentalists argued that the porous limestone beneath the hog CAFO allowed waste to seep into the water table and that the land application of waste had contributed to runoff polluting a nearby stream that feeds into the Buffalo.

    Do we really need to suck up?

    Here in Missouri, the Missouri Farm Bureau was the main backer of the new state law, along with the Missouri Cattlemen's Association. 

    Although no vote was taken on the non-binding resolution in November, the commissioners explained where they stood to News-Leader reporter Austin Huguelet.

    Dixon said he did not want to ruffle the feathers of our GOP state lawmakers.

    "That creates a very large risk for us given how helpful the delegation was to the

    county this year," Dixon said.

    He pointed out that the Republican-dominated assembly recently allocated money for a new county judge here.

    I have to ask: Do we really run the risk of being short-changed as a county if we don't suck up to our state reps?

    If so, what does that say about our state reps?

    (Greene County has only one Democratic state representative: Crystal Quade.)

    Commissioner Russell agreed with Dixon, but he also said he didn't think the new

    law would affect Greene County's regulations and didn't think a statement would help

    anyone else.

    "If I thought it would do something and this would fix something, I would probably be

    much more supportive," he said.

    I'll respond to that in a minute when I tell you about the entirely different path taken by the all-Republican commission up in Cedar County.

    Our third commissioner, Harold Bengsch, disagreed with Dixon and, in my view, saw exactly what the issue is.

    Every year, he said, the Greene County Commission asks lawmakers to avoid legislation that takes power away from local officials.

    Yet, the legislature passed the CAFO law and another one making it difficult for the commission to regulate the construction of a controversial cell tower.

    "I think we have an opportunity here to pass a statement confirming and supporting

    our longstanding request that usurping legislation at the local level is not done,"

    Bengsch said.

    In a nutshell, CAFO farm operations — which do not necessarily have to be owned and operated by large corporations that are located in foreign lands — want an even playing field throughout Missouri. They want to face the same rules and regulations across our 114 counties.

    It makes things simpler, easier and — from their perspective — fairer.

    State laws and federal laws already cover all possible concerns and controversies, they argue.

    They also contend that they want approval for CAFO operations to be based on science, not emotion and unfounded fear.

    The main argument against that, as Bengsch said: Who decides whether all possible concerns and controversies are already covered by state and federal law?

    Opponents of the state law also believe that state and federal laws regarding CAFOs do not take into account local geology.

    In other words, you need local rules to factor in local springs, local rivers, local watersheds and the porous karst topography of the Ozarks.

    Thirdly, should one side — the Missouri Farm Bureau and other proponents of CAFOs — close further and all discussion on what the science of water pollution does or does not say?

    A different path in Cedar County

    "The topography of Missouri south of the Missouri River is different from north of the river," says Marlon Collins, presiding commissioner of Cedar County.

    Collins and his fellow commissioners — all Republicans — have sued the state over what they see as an encroachment on local control regarding CAFO regulations. Cedar County is footing part of the bill for an outside law firm.

    By the way, all the state lawmakers from Cedar County are Republicans.

    "I campaigned for those folks and helped put their signs up," he says.

    "We have El Dorado Springs, Jericho Springs, Cedar Springs, we have the Sac River, we have Cedar Creek, we have Horse Creek," he tells me. "We have springs all over this county and sinkholes."

    The Cedar County rules regarding CAFOs were established after months of meetings with county residents, he says.

    "We heard from our local farmers who were making complaints about the small CAFOs coming in," he says. "We had public hearings."

    "The state laws are pretty weak — one size fits all," he tells me.

    He says no one has filed to run against him in the next election.

    "All I've been hearing since we filed the lawsuit is, 'Hey, don't let them do that to us."

    Cedar County, thus far, has received no political backlash from a miffed GOP state lawmaker who voted for the state law.

    But Collins admits, "I am worried about repercussions from them."

    He and the other commissioners were or are members of the Missouri Farm Bureau and Missouri Cattlemen's Association.

    "We are not anti-CAFO, although they try to portray us that way," he says. "We have been portrayed as being anti-farmer. We are not.

    "There has to be a proper place and a proper procedure and some standards that have to be met."

    Those standards should be local, not statewide, he says, and Cedar County is willing to fight for that belief.

    Finally: Did you know Stockton Lake, Springfield's No. 2 source of drinking water, is in Cedar County?

    If you ask me, Cedar County should send part of its legal bill to Greene County.

  • 23 Nov 2019 8:25 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Joplin Globe

    Our view: An expensive lesson in Arkansas could bring a better vision for Missouri

    Joplin Globe Editorial Board

    Our Arkansas neighbors learned an expensive lesson, and we hope Missouri was paying attention.

    Now they are forging a better vision that we think might also offer us a way forward.

    About seven years ago, Arkansas regulators quietly permitted a hog concentrated animal feeding operation on a major tributary of the upper Buffalo River in Arkansas — a river that has been protected for nearly a half century. Not even the National Park Service, which is responsible for managing America's first national river, was aware of what had happened until after the deal was done.

    The result sparked outcry and pushback from all corners, and not just from the state of Arkansas but around the country as well, and this summer Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced an agreement to close down the hog farm, but at a high price. The state would pay $4.7 million while The Nature Conservancy kicked in $1.5 million to help out, in effect paying the hog farm's owners $6.2 million to shut down what the state should never have permitted in the first place.

    That was the expensive lesson.

    This fall, Arkansas officials also announced that $2 million in state and private funds (half from the state, the rest to come from that old Ozarks' ally, The Nature Conservancy and from the Buffalo River Foundation) will be allocated for conservation and water quality grants within the Buffalo's watershed. Last week, lawmakers gave final approval to transfer the state's share of the money to the fund, with it to be used to encourage best management practices for farmers and landowners in the watershed, for local wastewater system improvements and to reduce sediment runoff from unpaved roads near the river.

    The governor, by the way, also has proposed making permanent a ban on medium- and large-scale hog farms in the Buffalo River watershed.

    That is the better vision — a partnership to protect the river — perhaps with a new round of conservation efforts and a cooperative approach, with the state not getting in the way but rather leading the way.

    “We want the protection and enhancement of water quality in the Buffalo River Watershed to continue as a state-led effort,” Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in September. “Now that the watershed management plan is in place, it is the right time to engage with stakeholders and landowners to start implementing projects that make a difference. The Buffalo National River is an irreplaceable resource, both for Arkansas and the nation."

    A 2018 National Park Service visitor spending effects report, by the way, estimated that 1.2 million visitors spent $54.9 million while visiting Buffalo National River last year.

    A similar report found that 1.3 million visitors to Ozark National Scenic Riverways — Missouri's protected rivers managed by the National Park Service — had a net boost to the local economy of $60 million.

    The message from latest Battle for the Buffalo is clear: Ozark residents want their rivers protected.

    Lawmakers throughout both states would be wise to heed those lessons.

  • 22 Nov 2019 1:27 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Listen at KUAF Public Radio

    Public Comment on ADEQ Swine CAFO Moratorium Extended


    The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality has extended a public comment period to Jan. 22 on whether to declare a permanent moratorium on industrial swine farming on the Buffalo National River watershed.

  • 20 Nov 2019 8:17 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Wach video here: KY3 TV

    Arkansas lawmakers clear up Buffalo River Watershed proposal

    NEWTON COUNTY, Ark. -- One million dollars flowing into projects near the Buffalo National River seemed like a straightforward plan to some.

    "It was for things like erosion-control projects, fencing for cattle to keep them out of the creeks. Things that I thought were a no-brainer," said Gordon Watkins, the president of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance.

    Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson proposed spending the money back in September.

    A committee made up of state leaders would decide how much money would go to each project. Subcommittees of local people who live near the river would help.

    "The governor will pick out who they are," said State Rep. Keith Slape.

    But Slape said after holding some public meetings in northern Arkansas, some farmers initially expressed they were not all on board.

    Hutchinson's order came right after the state reached an agreement with C&H Hog Farms to cease operations in Newton County in exchange for $6.2 million.

    Many people believed the farm contributed to pollution in the river, but there appears to be no concrete scientific evidence to back that up.

    And other farmers don't want to be next.

    "They were worried that, OK they've got the hogs out of here. Now they're going to go for the cattle, the chickens, and that. And on the surface that's what it appeared at first," Slape said.

    Slape said farmers were also worried the state would have too much control of the process.

    But the state representative and other lawmakers helped change the wording.

    It's now clear the subcommittees made up of local people will have a lot of the say.

    "There's a history of here of distrust of the government, and people who say there's no such thing as free money," Watkins said. "And in some cases that's probably true. But in this case I think it was an honest effort. It was well-intentioned by the governor."

Buffalo River Watershed Alliance is a non profit 501(c)(3) organization

Copyright @ 2019

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software