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  • 06 Sep 2013 8:37 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Legislature approves money for pollution testing on hog farm near Buffalo River

    Posted by David Ramsey on Thu, Sep 5, 2013 at 6:06 PM
     
    HOGS NEAR THE BUFFALO: state will fund testing and monitoring

    The legislature’s Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review (PEER) joint subcommittee today approved Gov. Mike Beebe’s request for $340,510 to implement pollution testing and monitoring at the C&H Hog Farm in Mt. Judea. The farm has stirred controversy because of its proximity to a major tributary of the Buffalo River. The study will be conducted by water and soil experts at the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture and paid for out of Rainy Day funds.

    Dr. Mark J. Cochran, Vice President for Agriculture at the U of A, testified that the plan has three major components: 1) monitoring the nutrients and bacteria resulting from the land application of liquid fertilizer (intensive monitoring will be conducted in three of the seventeen application fields), 2) testing the impact of the farm undefined both the manure holding ponds and the application of liquid fertilizer undefined on water quality on and around the farm, and 3) research the effectiveness and sustainability of alternative manure management techniques, including the possibility of solid separation and transporting nutrients out of the watershed rather than applying them as fertilizer. You can read the full plan here.

    The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality remains the regulatory agency over the farm, and the U of A researchers will give ADEQ quarterly reports of their findings. ADEQ Director Teresa Marks testified that they would make those findings publicly available. If a problem was found, ADEQ could revise the permit and/or nutrient management plan that the farm is operating under, in which case the farm would then have to adjust their practice to comply. You can see the memorandum of understanding between ADEQ and the U of A here.

    The C&H farmers are on board with the testing program. What about Cargill, the owner of the hogs and the farm's sole buyer? Their spokesman Mike Martin, always cagey, said, "Cargill does not object to monitoring programs that are based on accepted scientific protocols." He said they had not yet seen the final plan and that it was ultimately the decision of the C&H farmers.

    Cochran testified that a testing program of this kind should typically last at least five years. The $340,510 will cover the first year, including setting up monitoring stations; subsequently, if the legislature approved more funds, the cost would be around $100,000 per year.

    The testing program is likely to leave conservationists concerned about the farm unsatisfied. "They’re spending at least half a million dollars to fix a problem that shouldn't have happened in the first place," Robert Cross, president of the Ozark Society, one of the groups suing federal agencies over their loan guarantee of the farm.

    Dr. John Van Brahana, a just-retired University of Arkansas geology professor and an expert in karst geology who has raised concerns about the environmental impact of the farm, attended today's meeting. He said of the testimony on the testing plan, "there was a little more salesmanship than fact." He said that the plan failed to take sufficient account of the karst geology and the movement of groundwater (a frequent complaint from critics of the permit that C&H is operating under) and wouldn't cover a sufficient area to identify potential problems. The plan does not include dye testing to determine water pathways, but Brahana is currently doing his own dye testing, as well as water-quality testing. Many Mt. Judea area residents have allowed Brahana to do testing on their properties. C&H has not. Brahana said that he sent Beebe a summary of his preliminary findings earlier this week.

    Rep. Nate Bell, meanwhile, said that he was confident there would not be problems with phosphorous runoff or other contamination. “If [land application] is done properly, the risk is so small you can’t even quantify it,” he said. “Everything is in place to indicate that it’s been engineered correctly, the hydrology analysis has been done, all of the safeguards are in place. If [C&H] follows the plan that they’ve outlined, I think there’s widespread agreement among scientists that there’s virtually no risk.” Bell, himself a chicken farmer, said that he approved of the testing program in order to protect the interests of both the public and the farmers. "As a farmer, I welcome this kind of monitoring because it proves that the science-based practices we’re using on the farm work," he said.

    The first quarterly report of the testing program is set to be submitted to ADEQ in January of 2014.
  • 29 Aug 2013 2:25 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Read this article on the largest environmental blog on the internet, with 250,000 Twitter followers:
  • 27 Aug 2013 11:07 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Close, don’t monitor

    By Mike Masterson
    This article was published today at 5:11 a.m.
     
    Not everyone is hog-wild about Gov. Mike Beebe’s announced plan to seek $250,000 from the Legislature to cover the costs of water-quality monitoring around the controversial C&H hog factory our state inexplicably permitted in the Buffalo National River watershed.

    For many across Arkansas and the country, nothing the state does short of shutting down this factory approved to house 6,500 of Cargill Inc.’s swine is acceptable. There should be no need to monitor any mega-waste-generating corporate enterprise that risks contaminating the country’s first national river. Thousands continue to wonder how the agency responsible for preserving and regulating our environmental “quality” could ever have allowed such a potential polluter to quietly set up in such an environmentally sensitive area.

    In speaking for a coalition of groups opposed to the hog factory’s location, Robert Cross, president of the Ozark Society, said the council is expected to vote Sept. 5 on Beebe’s request.

    “The details of the proposed study are not yet public, and the Ozark Society, Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, National Parks Conservation Association and Arkansas Canoe Club will withhold judgment until more information is available,” said Cross. “The bottom line, however, is the state should be preventing contamination from reaching the Buffalo River, not monitoring the problem.”

    Cross said in a news release by the coalition that while water-quality monitoring, if done well, beats not doing so, the groups question why the governor won’t step up and lead with more decisive action and at least review the facility’s ill-conceived permit.

    To be beneficial, any soil and water testing must be thorough, based on sound science, and coupled with a plan for swift action to address violations, said Cross. But by the time contamination from hog waste is detected, it’s also likely too late to undo the potential damage.

    The group also doesn’t understand why John Van Brahana of the University of Arkansas Geosciences Department, a man widely regarded as the scientist with the greatest knowledge of Newton County karst hydrogeology, hasn’t been consulted on the governor’s monitoring proposal.

    In early June, Brahana made his own proposal to Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality Director Teresa Marks for baseline testing followed by water-quality monitoring in the region. When that proposal was ignored by the agency, Brahana embarked on the study on his own time, using some of his own money and with support from other organizations.

    “That work is ongoing and he is currently testing wells for anyone in the Mount Judea area free of charge,” said Cross. “The state should have considered Brahana’s previous offer, and moving forward should coordinate with him for the governor’s proposal to utilize the valuable information Brahana is uncovering.”

    These folks make a valid point. Why was Brahana in effect shunned by the agency that wrongheadedly issued this permit in the worst possible location in Arkansas? Surely this Arkansas resource, with his extensive background and national credentials for studies in exactly this kind of environmentally sensitive region, is as good and likely better than the state agency can provide. There is some concern out here that having the state monitor itself, and its own bad decision to locate this factory where it is, smells political and arranged.

    “Most importantly,” says Cross, “the ADEQ should have fulfilled its duty to prevent contamination of the Buffalo River in the first place, before the 6,500-pig factory became a reality.”

    Instead, this misguided pig plan was flown under the radar and away from public scrutiny, for whatever its reasons. Mount Judea residents weren’t consulted, nor was the Arkansas Department of Health or the National Park Service. Even the Department of Environmental Quality’s own staff members in Newton County were kept out of the permitting loop, and this factory is operating smack dab in their backyard.

    “The permit process clearly didn’t assess the economic impact on tourism or the environmental impact on local residents,” Cross said. “Government agencies seem to be going out of their way to protect an industrial swine facility that will produce a handful of jobs, rather than protecting and preserving our first national river that belongs to all of us while supporting $38 million in local spending and 500 local jobs.”

    He said there are additional serious concerns over the effects of potentially harmful air pollution on more than 250 children attending the Mount Judea school just across Big Creek and the flood-prone fields where the two million gallons of hog manure produced annually will regularly be sprayed. “We look forward to seeing the governor’s proposal,” said Cross. “But sadly, any monitoring after the fact only demonstrates why this hog farm never should have been approved in the first place. Arriving at this point, the big question we ask is: Why is the federal government guaranteeing $3 million in taxpayer-subsidized loans and the state paying $250,000 to place a Cargill industrial pig factory in the Buffalo River watershed? This is getting to be one expensive factory farm, which can only get costlier for the people of Arkansas.” -

  • 26 Aug 2013 7:14 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    For BRWA's position on the Governor's proposal, see previous blog entry.

    http://mikemastersonsmessenger.com/governor-steps-to-plate-in-hogs-contest/

    All who appreciate the magnificence of the Buffalo National River must be pleased to hear Governor Mike Beebe say he will ask the Legislative Council to authorize $250,000 for soil and water tests in and around the new C&H Hog Farms in Mount Judea, even if such crucial monitoring comes many months after the fact.

    There’s irony in that it also was our state’s Department of Environmental Quality that wrongheadedly permitted this home to as many as 6,500 waste-generating swine atop karst-ridden ground along a major tributary of the Buffalo without insisting this factory farm proactively undertake such testing.

    These are the kinds of analyses the ADEQ should have been required of this factory farm and its supplier Cargill Inc. before even considering a permit at this location in Newton County.

    In fact, I’m still buffaloed over why groundwater dye testing wasn’t demanded in the watershed of our state’s only national river.

    Now the governor has done what certainly appears to be an admirable thing by saying he’ll seek funding for these tests and monitoring using geoscience experts from the University of Arkansas.

    In doing so, Beebe said the state can more thoroughly and accurately determine if unsafe levels of hog waste from this factory-known as a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO)-could reach Big Creek (which flows alongside several of the factory’s waste dispersal fields) and into the Buffalo. Regulators can thereby be prepared to take preventative action if that occurs, he added.

    However, I’ve spoken with several geoscientist types who insist it’s not a question of if that happens in this Ozark Mountain county with more subsurface fractured limestone formations and caves than any other place in Arkansas, but rather when.

    Despite Beebe’s intentions, there remain many critics with valid questions. Why is the state taxpayer paying for this pollution monitoring rather than the farmers and Cargill? Why does this monitoring not even begin until October? That’s long after baseline water quality testing should have been done. To begin in October when the hog factory opened in mid-summer could easily show waste contamination present from the hogs that, at this point, could be wrongly attributed to other unknown existing sources.

    The National Park Service and Dr. John Van Brahana thankfully have been conducting baseline testing of the area’s water quality since the hog factory began operation, and the state should give their early results the credibility they deserve.

    The governor said he chose to act for two reasons: First, everyone who cares about America’s first national river wants to maintain its pristine nature. Second, this hog factory (the likes of which already have fouled once pristine streams and waters in North Carolina, Missouri and other states) is the first in Arkansas to receive a hog CAFO permit under a new general permit adopted nationally.

    “The CAFO permit was created two years ago by a change in federal law,” Gov. Beebe said. “This additional testing will help ensure there are no unintended consequences that result from that change.”

    I have no doubt the governor’s office has received many complaints about the ADEQ’s misguided permit issued without adequate notice and so effortlessly in the state’s worst possible location.

    Now Beebe is on record putting action behind his proclaimed beliefs.

    “I have said for years that in most cases a balance can be found between operating our businesses and caring for the environment, ” he said in his weekly radio address. “My hope is such a balance will be possible in Newton County. I recognize that the stakes are especially high when the Buffalo River is involved … For the immediate future, I expect that this extra monitoring will put minds at ease and ensure that America’s first national river will always be protected and preserved.”

    Beebe added that legislation could be forthcoming to address this controversy. I’d only add there indeed should be protective statues to make sure this state treasure remains continually protected from contamination in every way possible.

    The governor’s announced intentions here also have unspoken consequences for the C&H factory.

    Its operators, no doubt fine people and adept at their livelihood, realize they will remain under intense scrutiny as the millions of gallons of waste and airborne emissions from their massive operation are released into the environment and throughout the hamlet of Mount Judea.

    I wouldn’t feel at all comfortable with a 24-7 spotlight in the public interest focused on my business. The hog farm’s supplier and sole buyer Cargill Inc. will join them on stage and in the news across Arkansas (and likely the nation) should pollution from their joint operation begin to foul the Buffalo National River.

    I still can’t believe this multinational corporation has invested so completely in this such a wholly unacceptable situation. Can America’s largest private corporation possibly be that desperate for yet another hog CAFO?

    Thank you, Governor, for stepping to the plate and belting a home run on behalf of the people of Arkansas and those across the nation who regularly visit our spectacular stream. Many of us across Arkansas will continue the scrutiny.

      

    Mike Masterson’s column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him atmikemasterson10@hotmail.com.
  • 22 Aug 2013 8:01 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    PRESS RELEASE
    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    Date: August 21, 2013
    Contact: Perry Wheeler, National Parks Conservation Association, P: 202-419-3712

    Coalition Urges Caution in Embracing Governor Beebe Water Testing Proposal for C & H Hog Farms

    Groups remain steadfast in efforts to revoke hog facility permit

    Statement by Robert Cross, President, Ozark Society

    “As widely reported, Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe has proposed a water testing study on and around C & H Hog Farms, an industrial-sized hog facility that has been ill-advisedly located in the Buffalo River watershed. A Legislative Council committee is expected to vote on whether to approve the Governor’s proposal on September 5. The details of the proposed study are not yet public, and the Ozark Society, Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, National Parks Conservation Association and Arkansas Canoe Club withhold judgment until more information is available. The bottom line, however, is the State of Arkansas should be preventing contamination from reaching the Buffalo River, not monitoring the problem. While monitoring – if done well – is better than no monitoring, we question why the Governor will not take more decisive action and at least review the facility’s ill-conceived permit. To be helpful, any soil and water testing must be thorough, based on sound science, and coupled with a plan for swift action to address violations. However, the fact remains that once contamination is detected, it is too late to undo the damage.
    “We are also perplexed that Professor Van Brahana of the University of Arkansas Geosciences Department, who is widely regarded as the scientist with the greatest knowledge of Newton County hydrogeology, has not been consulted on the Governor’s proposal. In early June, Dr. Brahana made his own proposal to Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) Director Teresa Marks for baseline testing followed by water quality monitoring in the region. When that proposal was ignored by ADEQ, Brahana embarked on the study on his own time, with some of his own money and with support from other organizations. That work is ongoing and he is currently testing wells for anyone in the Mount Judea area free-of-charge. The State should have considered Brahana’s previous offer, and moving forward should coordinate with him to utilize the valuable information he is uncovering for the Governor’s proposal.
    “Most importantly, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality should have fulfilled its duty to prevent contamination of the Buffalo River in the first place, before the 6500-pig factory became a reality. ADEQ placed it under the radar and away from public scrutiny. Local Mt. Judea residents were not consulted, neither were the Arkansas Department of Health or the National Park Service. The permit process didn't assess the economic impact on tourism or the environmental impact on local residents. Government agencies seem to be going out of their way to protect an industrial swine facility that will produce a handful of jobs, rather than our first national river that belongs to all of us and supports $38 million in local spending and 500 local jobs. Additionally, there are serious concerns over the impacts of air pollution on the over 250 children attending school just across Big Creek and the flood-prone fields where the 2 million gallons of hog manure produced annually will be sprayed.
    “We look forward to seeing the Governor’s proposal, but sadly, any monitoring after the fact only demonstrates why this hog farm never should have been approved in the first place. Arriving at this point, the big question we ask is this: Why is the federal government guaranteeing $3 million taxpayer subsidized loans and the state paying $250,000 to place a Cargill industrial-sized pig factory in the Buffalo River watershed? This is getting to be one expensive factory farm, which can only get costlier for the people of Arkansas.”
    ###
  • 20 Aug 2013 10:29 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Watching the Buffalo River for animal waste

    by Gov. Mike Beebe

    09:25 AM, Monday, August 19 2013 | 230 views | 0 | 0 | |

    One of the many duties of our Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) is to issue permits to farmers who maintain livestock and poultry operations. This does not usually attract much attention from the general public. But this year has been different because of the C&H Hog Farm in Newton County.

    ADEQ issues permits and guidelines instructing farms on the proper disposal of animal waste. This particular operation is near Big Creek, a tributary of the Buffalo River. There is concern, that despite regulatory requirements, waste from the thousands of animals could eventually find its way into the Buffalo.

    The Buffalo River is unquestionably a treasure, both for Arkansas and for America. As our country’s first national river, it has been a source of Natural State pride for generations. As you can imagine, my office has received numerous calls and e-mails from Arkansans worried about the potential environmental harm the hog farm could have on the Buffalo and its tributaries.

    First let me say that, based on previous legal interpretations, neither I nor my ADEQ director has the legal authority to unilaterally halt a properly permitted farming operation, or to declare an executive moratorium on such farms near certain bodies of water.

    When concern began to grow about the C&H Hog Farm, I had ADEQ officials review the entire permitting process to ensure that the farm’s owner had followed all state requirements and procedures. And he had. The farm has plans in place to manage waste disposal and undergo regular testing and monitoring.

    However, while the state may not have the authority to stop the operation of a legally permitted farm, we do have the authority to go above and beyond the required diligence for environmental monitoring. Next month, I will ask the Arkansas Legislative Council to authorize $250,000 to establish additional testing in areas on and near the C&H Hog Farm.

    Soil-and-water experts from the University of Arkansas will oversee this effort and determine the best areas to place monitoring wells and conduct tests. This will allow us to more thoroughly determine if unsafe levels of waste could reach Big Creek and the Buffalo River, and to take preventive action if that occurs.

    This is an extraordinary step we do not deem necessary with other farms. I chose this action for two reasons. First, we all share the desire to preserve the pristine nature of the Buffalo River.

    In addition, this hog farm is the first in the state to receive what is called a CAFO or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation permit. The CAFO permit was created two years ago by a change in federal law, and this additional testing will help ensure that there are no unintended consequences that result from that change.

    I have said, for years, that in most cases, a balance can be found between operating our businesses and caring for the environment. My hope is that such a balance will be possible in Newton County. I recognize the stakes are especially high when the Buffalo River is involved, and there may be future legislation proposed to address this specific issue.

    For the immediate future, I expect that this extra monitoring will put minds at ease and ensure that America’s first national river will always be protected and preserved.
     
  • 19 Aug 2013 3:04 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Beebe Calls for Inspections and Possibility of Legislation for Hog Farm on Buffalo River
    UALR Public Radio
     
    By JACOB KAUFFMAN
     
    Governor Beebe's Weekly Radio Address


    Buffalo National River
    The newly built C&H Hog Farm near the Buffalo River may be getting additional water quality inspections. Governor Mike Beebe says he wants to use $250,000 of surplus money to have the University of Arkansas monitor potential waste run-off from the farm.

    The operation is the first Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation in the state. In his weekly radio address, Beebe said the unique designation of a national river requires extra protections.

    “I recognize that the stakes are especially high when the Buffalo River is involved. There may be future legislation involved to address this specific issue. For the immediate future I expect that this extra monitoring will put minds at ease and ensure that America’s first National River will always be protected and preserved.”

    Beebe said this is an extraordinary step not necessary for other farms.

    “I chose this action for two reasons. First, we all share the desire to preserve the pristine nature of the Buffalo River. In addition, this hog farm is the first in the state to receive what is called a CAFO, or concentrated animal feeding operation permit.”

    Beebe will be asking the Legislative Council in November for funds to be used by the University of Arkansas for increased monitoring.

    The Governor says if the results show harm, the state could take action, including a cease and desist order.

  • 19 Aug 2013 8:28 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Why I’m not Cargill’s CEO

    Mike Masterson


    As you might imagine, I, too, receive lots of messages. So it was no surprise to see an email from someone signed only as “A Concerned Arkansas Legislator” arrive in the inbox.
    This one told of “an interesting rumor” floating around the state Capitol. It claimed Cargill Inc., the multinational supplier of up to as many as 6,500 swine to the controversial C&H Hog Farms ensconced in the Buffalo National River watershed at Mount Judea, is against water-quality testing and monitoring proposed by the governor in concert with the University of Arkansas.
    Opposed? How could that possibly be? Why wouldn’t the ultimate provider for this waste-producing hog factory that relies solely on consumer support want to know if its product might be polluting the Buffalo? I’d sure want to know if I was involved in anything so destructive to God’s Country. Wouldn’t you?
    The unconfirmed Arkansas politician who addressed the message “to whom it may concern,” sure seemed informed enough to me.
    “It’s my understanding that U of A, Farm Bureau and the farmers support the testing but Cargill isn’t on board,” the email read. The politician goes on to say at least two people from the Farm Bureau and UA say the University of Arkansas is continuing to work on a proposal. “I’m not sure why Cargill is opposed but I hear Farm Bureau and the farmers want to know if the farm is polluting. They don’t believe it is but want to fix it if something isn’t working. I hope you can find out more …”
    Well, without hamming it up too badly, I went to rootin’ around in hopes of bringing home the bacon in terms of some kind of clear response from pork-providing Cargill.
    Can’t believe I just wrote that sentence. Actually, it tickled me pink.
    When a cloud of mental hickory smoke lingered after my email exchange with Michael Martin of Cargill’s communications division, I still felt shamefully ignorant of where exactly the mega-corporation stands on even having the water tested and monitored in the national river’s watershed.
    See if you have any idea of the corporation’s position from the following messages. If so, feel free to share your insights.
    Me: “Hi again Michael MartinundefinedCan you please tell me where Cargill stands with regard to the governor’s proposal to have the University of Arkansas perform water quality studies and monitoring in and around the C&H Hog Farms and the Buffalo River watershed to ensure there is no contamination escaping from the hog CAFO. I … hear … Cargill is opposed to such studies while the Farm Bureau and others support having them done. So to set (and keep) record straight, does Cargill oppose or support such studies funded by the state? My best, and yes, I did in fact have crispy bacon for breakfast this morning.”
    Martin: “Mike: Until we see, and have a chance to evaluate, whatever the final plan is from the governor’s office and University of Arkansas, we really can’t comment. We will likely have some questions, and suspect there will be follow-up discussions involving a variety of stakeholders. As far as Cargill is concerned, nothing has been taken off the table. I hope this is helpful.”
    Me: “MikeundefinedHmmm. So does that then mean you support the state conducting water quality analysis studies and monitoring in the watershed at all? I’m kind of slow, Mike, and sometimes need things spelled out real clearly.”
    Martin: “As you might imagine, we can’t comment on a proposal we haven’t seen. We will be in a better position to comment once we’ve seen the proposal and have an opportunity to evaluate it to determine if it will involve monitoring in a way that accounts for all sources that currently, or potentially, impact the river.”
    No comment? All sources that currently or potentially impact the river? How can any animal-waste pollution or its sources possibly be known unless the runoff and groundwater is analyzed first?
    Now, if I ran Cargill (I considered applying as its CEO, but they don’t much care for pesky columnists leading their corporation), I’d be bending over backwards to make sure none of my consumersensitive product was polluting something as ecologically sensitive as the country’s first national river and its watershed.
    Why would I be even remotely opposed to supporting such studies unless I was concerned about what they might reveal?
    Since I don’t have a problem making political contributions, I’d be eager to cough up say, oh, 5 seconds of my corporation’s worldwide earnings (it is America’s largest privately held corporation) to pay for such analyses ourselves rather than depending on the beleaguered Arkansas taxpayers and their “rainy day fund” in a relatively poor state.
    To socialize that responsibility (which ought to belong to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality anyway) rather than willingly being accountable for my own swines’ waste sounds downright hoggish to me.
    But as I’ve already told you, I’d likely make one boorish CEO for an all-bidness Cargill.
     
    Mike Masterson’s column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at mikemasterson10@hotmail.com. Read his blog at mikemastersonsmessenger.com.
  • 18 Aug 2013 7:28 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    UA delays plan for testing near hog farm

    Arkansas Democrat Gazette, August 17, 2013



    Move also postpones vote for $250,000 by state legislators to fund study

    By Ryan McGeeney


    A plan to begin testing for nutrients and pollutants in the soil and groundwater in the area near a Newton County hog farm has been indefinitely delayed, a University of Arkansas administrator said.

    Mark Cochran, vice president for the University of Arkansas’ Division of Agriculture, said university researchers are piecing together a proposal to measure the environmental effects of swine production at C&H Hog Farms, located in Mount Judea.

    “It’s a work in progress,” Cochran said. “There’s a beginning, middle and end to this process. We’re still trying to get our team [to C&H Hog Farms] to make the necessary site visits.”

    Cochran said the idea to begin frequent water and soil testing around the farm began when co-owner Jason Henson approached agents at the Newton County Extension Office, which provides agricultural support to farmers through the university.

    The farm, which holds the state’s first and only federal permit for a large-scale concentrated animal feeding operation under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, has attracted public scrutiny since its construction earlier this year, largely because of its proximity to Big Creek, a major tributary of the Buffalo National River.

    Calls to Henson seeking comment for this story were not returned.

    The plan has been the topic of several private discussions between Division of Agriculture administrators,state legislators and Gov. Mike Beebe since mid-July, according to Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample.

    DeCample said the governor hoped to address public concerns over possible pollution of ground and surface water in the area through the study.

    “A lot of Arkansans have particularly strong feelings regarding the river,” DeCample said. “They’ve made it clear to us.”

    DeCample said Beebe is requesting state legislators set aside $250,000 from the Arkansas Rainy Day Fund to initiate the study.

    The C&H Hog Farms production facility sits on an approximately 40-acre parcel west of Big Creek, surrounded by approximately 630 acres for which the operators have land-use agreements to spread the manure produced by the 2,500 sows and 4,000 piglets the facility is permitted to house. The acreage is composed of 17 fields, three of which are owned by Henson. The other 14 fields are owned by eight other landowners.

    Legislators were scheduled to vote on the $250,000 allotment during an Aug. 1 meeting of the Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review Subcommittee of the Arkansas Legislative Council, but the vote was removed from the agenda at the last minute because Cochran had not yet provided a finalized proposal to legislators or to the governor’s office, state Rep. David Branscum, R-Marshall, said.

    Branscum said a vote on the appropriation had been placed on the agenda for the subcommittee’s Sept. 5 meeting.

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