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  • 17 Aug 2013 8:24 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    $250K to monitor hog farm; Experts to map locations to drill monitoring wells and establish testing sites.

     Harrison Daily Times

    Posted: Friday, August 16, 2013 3:06 pm |
    Staff Report dailytimes@harrisondaily.com | 0 comments

    LITTLE ROCK undefined Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe announced Friday that he will ask the Arkansas Legislative Council to authorize $250,000 to establish additional testing in areas on and near the C&H Hog Farm in Mt. Judea. He said the request is in response to numerous calls and e-mails from Arkansans who are worried about the potential environmental harm a hog farm could have on the Buffalo and its tributaries.

    The governor said that money will be used so soil-and-water experts from the University of Arkansas will oversee that 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.”
    Beebe’s Action

    ISSUE: Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) permit in the Buffalo River watershed;
    The governor explained that Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality is responsible for issuing permits to farmers who maintain livestock and poultry operations. ADEQ issues permits and guidelines instructing farms on the proper disposal of animal waste.
    While that permitting process generally doesn’t attract much attention, “This year has been different because of the C&H Hog Farm in Newton County,” Beebe said. “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,” he continued. “As our country’s first national river, it has been a source of Natural State pride for generations.”
    The governor explained that neither he nor his 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,” the governor stressed. “And he had.
    “The farm has plans in place to manage waste disposal and undergo regular testing and monitoring.”
    While the state doesn’t have the authority to stop operation of a legally permitted farm, “We do have the authority to go above and beyond the required diligence for environmental monitoring.
    “This is an extraordinary step that we do not deem necessary with other farms,” Beebe exclaimed, but he felt was warranted because of two concerns:
    • The desire to preserve the pristine nature of the Buffalo River.
    • C&H Hog Farm is the first in Arkansas 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 unintended consequences do not 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,” the governor concluded. “My hope is that such a balance will be possible in Newton County.
    “I recognize that 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.”
  • 15 Aug 2013 3:27 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Beebe: state-funded independent monitoring of hog farm doesn't need landowner permission

    Posted by David Ramsey on Thu, Aug 15, 2013 at 1:48 PM

    As noted on John Brummett's blog yesterday, Gov. Mike Beebe plans to proceed with a request for legislative approval to spend $250,000 in rainy day funds on testing and monitoring at theC&H Hog Farm in Mt. Judea. The facility has stirred controversy because of its proximity to a tributary of theBuffalo River and concerns about impacts on the community of Mt. Judea. Beebe said that he was hopeful that C&H undefined and surrounding landowners who have agreed to let C&H spray hog waste as fertilizer on their fields undefined would be on board. However, if approved by the Legislative Council, the state would have the legal authority, Beebe said, to proceed with the program with or without the permission of C&H or the owners of the spray fields.

    "We’d always do normal monitoring under existing laws," Beebe said. "I felt like, with all of the concern that exists with regard to potential harm to the Buffalo or any of the watershed up there, I just thought we’d go further, be double sure and put in extensive monitoring undefined so if there is a problem, if the fears are legitimate, then we’ve got data and can immediately take steps to do whatever it takes to protect the environment." The monitoring would be conducted by water experts from the University of Arkansas, who are still developing the details and scope of the program.

    Beebe said that administration officials would make a presentation on the program at the next Legislative Council meeting (set for next month). "I don't anticipate any problem," he said.

    There have been murmurs that Cargill, the owner of the hogs and the farm’s sole customer, has given pushback to the idea (Cargill told us they had no comment until they see the actual proposal).

    The governor, who said that he has not spoken directly with Cargill, said "we don't care about that."

    The Farm Bureau and a bipartisan group of legislators undefined including Democrats Greg Leding and Warwick Sabin and Republicans David Branscum and Kelly Linck undefined have been generally positive about the idea of third-party testing. C&H has as well, though any resistance from Cargill would likely give them pause.

    "We are hopeful for something that all parties can agree on," Farm Bureau spokesman Steve Eddington said. "Certainly the governor has some latitude to pursue testing and monitoring. But anything that significant is going to work best when all the appropriate parties are in agreement on the best way to accomplish it. We continue to work with the farmers at C&H to protect their interests."

    The potential monitoring program would be led by Andrew Sharpley, a renowned soil and water quality expertat the University of Arkansas. Sharpley's team would in effect be deputized by the state, under the auspices and authority of ADEQ, to conduct their study. The governor said that after researching the question, his office has concluded that the state has the authority to do so "with or without landowners' permission" from either C&H or owners of the spray fields.

    ADEQ Director Teresa Marks said that she has not yet had extensive discussions with the U of A researchers about the project. "We want to go ahead and let them do whatever they need to do to make sure they get a good and thorough study," she said. Marks said that if they discovered a problem linked to the farm, they could potentially recall and revise either the general permit that C&H is operating under or the specific nutrient management plan C&H developed as part of the permit (in either scenario, C&H would be given a period of time to make corrections, during which they could continue to operate under the general permit).

    "If none of that works, ultimately it could all be denied," Beebe added. He said that it was important that the study focus on any possible environmental harm directly connected to the operation of the farm. "If that shows there’s harm to that river then it would be my instructions that we do whatever is necessary to immediately cease that harm," he said. Beebe said it was difficult to speculate on state response because it is unknown what the potential U of A study will find, but in the case of an extreme problem: "if it was catastrophic, all immediate remedial action including but not limited to 'cease and desist' would be an option available for the state."

    One point to bear in mind politically: the phrase "with or without landowners' permission" is certain to raise the hackles of folks in Newton County; there is the potential for an ugly fight if not everyone gives the okay to the testing program.
  • 14 Aug 2013 12:08 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Beebe moves to have UA monitor hog farm
    August 14th, 2013, 9:07 am

    Gov. Mike Beebe tells me this morning that his office has formally asked the Legislative Council to approve at its next meeting his release of $250,000 in rainy-day funds to contract with University of Arkansas specialists to intensify normal water-quality monitoring in and around the C&H Hog Farm and the Buffalo River.

    Beebe confirms there has been a little resistance to this enhanced monitoring from Cargill Foods, which contracts with C&H and other ara landowners, but that, essentially, he doesn’t care.

    He says Cargill is not a party to the state’s dutiful consideration of how might beef up in this case the normal regulatory oversight provided by the state Environmental Quality Department.

    The normal procedure is for DEQ to do periodic checks of the Buffalo itself and to require the landowner to submit samples and stand for on-site inspections.

    In this extraordinary case, Beebe says, that simply didn’t strike him as sufficient.

    What these UA scientists would do is set up monitoring wells, and then keep those wells checked frequently, at points chosen by the experts above and below the Buffalo.

    The idea, Beebe says, is to arm the state with plenty of authoritative scientific data should it see a need to move to restrict farm operations to protect the Buffalo.

  • 13 Aug 2013 7:42 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    We reported last month that Gov. Mike Beebe, lawmakers, and various stakeholders were in discussion about the possibility of state-funded testing and monitoring on the C & H hog farm in Mt. Judea, which has sparked controversy because of its location by a tributary of the Buffalo River. The testing and monitoring would be conducted by water experts from the University of Arkansas and paid for via state rainy day funds, pending legislative approval. Now we're hearing murmurs that the idea may have hit a roadblock because of resistance from Cargill, which owns the hogs and is the farm's sole buyer.

    Yesterday, I received an anonymous email from someone claiming to be a state legislator, which stated "it is my understanding that U of A, Farm Bureau, and the Farmers support the testing but Cargill isn't on board." I cannot confirm that this actually came from a legislator, though at least one person heavily involved in negotiations over the possible testing program said off the record that it had.

    Matt DeCample, spokesman for Gov. Beebe, said, "We are starting to get some pushback from Cargill, so that's something to be worked out. [Cargill has] resistance to the idea of ongoing university monitoring...currently that's the biggest obstacle." DeCample said that governor's office had not spoken to Cargill directly but had heard from others involved in the negotiations that Cargill was resistant.

    Cargill spokesman Mike Martin said that the company had not taken a position and was unable to comment until they saw an actual proposal.

    "We have not taken anything off the table at this point. It it ultimately the property of the farm owners. It's ultimately their decision. In terms of how we feel about it, we'd have to analyze what's being proposed before we can comment. If the question is, 'Do we have some concerns about monitoring?' The answer is that we would have to see what’s proposed because it depends on how it’s done and what’s being done, who’s doing it, who’s going to be involved in analyzing it, how it’s going to be reported."

    The Arkansas Farm Bureau declined to comment specifically on Cargill's role. "Should all those involved agree that a third-party study is in the best interest of this family farm, we are certainly supportive of that effort," spokesman Steve Eddington said. "We understand those discussions are ongoing."

    I was in Mt. Judea a few weeks back and asked C&H farmer Jason Henson about the possible testing program and he said it was "yet to be determined. It's up to several different people and groups." He said he was for it "because I think it will prove that everything we're doing is scientifically sound."

    After the jump, the full anonymous email, signed "a concerned Arkansas legislator."

    To Whom it May Concern:
    There is an interesting rumor floating around the Capitol that Cargill is against the proposed water quality testing offered by the Governor and the UofA. It is my understanding that UofA, Farm Bureau, and the Farmers support the testing but Cargill isn't on board. The Farm Families are afraid to buck Cargill for fear of losing their contract and everything they own.

    I can't get anyone to confirm this rumor. Beau Bishop with Farm Bureau and Mark Cochran with UofA both tell me that UofA is still working 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 it something isn't working.

    I hope you can find out more but it sounds like Cargill is actually being the bully we all think they are.

    A Concerned Arkansas Legislator

  • 11 Aug 2013 9:47 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    As promised

    It’s off to court we go

    Mike Masterson

    Folks at a coalition of conservation and citizen groups warned that a lawsuit awaited unless things changed radically with the controversial C&H hog factory approved by our state to grow thousands of Cargill Inc.’s hogs in the Buffalo National River watershed.
    Sure enough, those groups filed that lawsuit last week in the U.S. Eastern District against the U.S. Farm Service Agency, the Small Business Administration, and others, seeking to nullify $3.4 million in federal loan guarantees those agencies made to help create the hog factory.
    The suit alleges these agencies violated numerous regulations and laws, basically contending they didn’t properly notify the public and failed to conduct a thorough and proper environmental assessment as legally required. The USDA has maintained all along that its Farm Service Agency acted properly. But it’s evident to me how miserably this was handled when even the local National Park Service office responsible for protecting the river wasn’t even notified of the farm’s location until after the state’s Department of Environmental Quality had permitted it and the loan was guaranteed.
    Many of us out here believe the approvals were accomplished as quietly as possible. And any realistic concerns expressed after the permitting and questionable federal loan guarantee have been ignored by an arrogant and defensive bureaucracy.
    This hautiness was on display most recently when the highly regarded Earthjustice environmental law firm, which filed the lawsuit, issued its specific concerns to the federal agencies, giving them until July 8 to try and arrive at a suitable plan to resolve the matter outside court. Instead of rational responses, Earthjustice received only the sound of silence.
    “It’s incredible to think the agencies involved would be so slipshod, indifferent, and evidently blindly confident that they could get away with putting the Buffalo National River at significant risk with something as huge as this CAFO hog farm. The over 110 allegations, and 12 cited violations of laws or well-vetted regulations speaks to the magnitude of the risk to the American citizens’ river that the Small Business Administration and Farm Service Agency have enabled. It’s sad and aggravating the courts have to be called upon to undo this mess,” said Ozark Society Director Duane Woltjen.
    So last week came the promised suit, to be presided over by Judge Price Marshall, a former clerk for U.S. District Judge Richard Arnold. One news report indicated Marshall could be familiar with related issues since Arnold, while in private practice, won federal rulings that required full review of decisions made by federal agencies as they related to provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act. That act applies to the new lawsuit.
    Among questions I hope are resolved: The extent of the role a Farm Service Agency supervisor (whose wife is related to C&H Farms owners) played in securing his agency’s loan approval, along with his supervision of the extensively questioned environmental assessment submitted with that application.
    As for testing, Gov. Mike Beebe intends to request $250,000 in rainyday funds from the Legislature for a University of Arkansas study to obtain some actual facts about runoff patterns in this watershed.
    I asked Beebe’s aide, Matt De-Cample, about the request. “Here’s where things stand,” he responded. “The governor does intend to request $250,000 in rainy-day funds from the General Assembly to use for groundwater study and monitoring. To this point, no formal announcement or announcement date has been scheduled. There are additional landowners who would have to participate for any such study and monitoring to be successfully executed. We don’t want to jump the gun and announce anything or submit our formal request to the Legislature until everything is in place. While Arkansas Farm Bureau and Cargill and others have been involved in discussions surrounding the development of this study and monitoring idea, there were no requests to our office to delay any scheduled announcement. We’ll announce when we feel everything is in place that needs to be.”
    I’m sure most taxpaying voters across Arkansas will eagerly await this announcement.
    Farewell, Chris Battle
    Shortly after arriving as editor of the Northwest Arkansas Times in 1995, I was fortunate to hire one of the best and brightest political reporters and editorial page editors I’ve known. Chris Battle had a divine gift for drawing laughter and tears from readers with his wit and compassion. He went on to become a top aide and campaign manager for Asa Hutchinson and then a leading executive with The Adfero Group, a Washington-based public relations firm.
    Chris died at age 45 last week after battling kidney cancer for four long years. He leaves behind a wife and two children. Gone from here, yet always alive in the minds and hearts of so many who knew him, including my own.
    Mike Masterson’s column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at mikemasterson10@hotmail.com. Read his blog at mikemastersonsmessenger.com.
  • 09 Aug 2013 12:26 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    UA plan to test hog farm’s land isn’t ready to go

    Funding vote is put off, too

    By Ryan McGeeney

    Posted: August 9, 2013 at 2:07 a.m.

    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 this week.

    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 necessarysite 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 closed-door 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.

    “It’s not a done deal yet,” DeCample said. “There’s no formal deadline. It’s a matter of getting all the landowners on board.”

    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 landuse 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 areowned 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.

    Cochran declined to say whether the study proposal would be complete before the Sept. 5 meeting.

    Northwest Arkansas, Pages 9 on 08/09/2013

  • 09 Aug 2013 9:51 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Groups sue over hog farm
    Posted: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 4:31 pm |
    Staff Report dailytimes@harrisondaily.com 

    LITTLE ROCK undefined Several non-profit environmental organization have filed suit against state and federal agencies asking the court to void $3.4 million in loan guarantees to C&H Hog Farms near Mt. Judea based on the impact the concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) could have on the Buffalo National River.
    The lawsuit was filed by the Buffalo River Water Shed Alliance, the Arkansas Canoe Club, the National Parks Conservation Association and the Ozark Society and names defendants as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the federal and state Small Business Administration, the federal and state Farm Service Agency and directors of each entity.
    Environmental groups were taken by surprise when C&H opened earlier this year and they hadn’t been informed. They immediately began protests and they have been ongoing since.
    Buffalo National River officials contacted the Farm Service Agency in February stating that the agency’s environmental assessment (EA) and finding of no significant impact (FONSI) were “very weak from an environmental point of view.”
    C&H is located near Mt. Judea, not far from Big Creek, a tributary of the Buffalo. Manure produced from the CAFO will be spread on more than 600 nearby acres, some directly adjacent to Big Creek.
    The lawsuit says the National Park Service should have been consulted prior to approval of C&H’s permit to determine the impact on the river. It asks the court to order such consultation.
    It asks that the Farm Service Agency’s EA and FONSI be deemed unlawful, and that loan guarantees to C&H from the defendants be enjoined
    The suit asks that the matter be remanded to defendants for an environmental review to ensure no jeopardy to species listed under the Endangered Species Act.
    It also asks that plaintiffs be awarded attorneys’ fee and other costs rising from the litigation in fighting the 6,500-hog CAFO.
    The farm is owned by cousins Richard and Phillip Campbell and Jason Henson.
    Henson told the Daily Times in April that the farm will hold 2,500 breeding sows and the piglets they produce will be taken to out of state facility when a few weeks old to be finished to adult weight and ultimate slaughter for meat.
    The suit was filed Tuesday in the Eastern District of Arkansas, Western Division.
  • 07 Aug 2013 2:17 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Arkansas Democrat Gazette 8/7/13

    U.S. sued over loan pledged to hog farm
    By Ryan McGeeney

    Lawyers representing a coalition of four environmental-activism groups filed suit Tuesday against the federal government, claiming improper issuance of loan guarantees for the construction of C&H Hog Farms, the large-scale concentrated animal feeding operation in Mount Judea.

    Earthjustice, a New York-based environmental litigation group, filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, located in Little Rock. The suit’s plaintiffs include the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, the Arkansas Canoe Club, the National Parks Conservation Association and the Ozark Society.

    The suit names seven defendants including the U.S Department of Agriculture and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack; the U.S. Small Business Administration and its chief administrator, Karen Mills; Farm Service Agency Administrator Juan Garcia; Linda Newkirk, Arkansas state executive director for the Farm Service Agency; and Linda Nelson, Arkansas district director for the Small Business Administration.

    The suit comes after a July 6 notice of intent to sue, which Earthjustice mailed to the defendants listed in the suit. Hannah Chang, a lawyer for Earthjustice, said none of the defendants responded to the original notice.

    The 49-page document outlines the legal framework under which the Farm Service Agency and the Small Business Administration must consider environmental impacts, endangered species in a given region and other factors when deciding whether to guarantee a business loan. According to court documents, the two agencies issued guarantees for an amount totaling about $3.4 million to the owners of C&H Hog Farms.

    The suit sharply criticizes the Farm Service Agency, which is part of the USDA, for the level of attention given to assessing potential environmental impacts posed by the farm’s operation. “FSA’s analysis consists of five pages of ‘Executive Summary,’” reads the complaint. The rest of the agency’s environmental assessment consists of about 600 pages of documents including the farm operators’ Nutrient Management Plan and copies of existing permits.

    The suit alleges about 20 failures on the part of the government in conducting the environmental review, including the Farm Service Agency’s “finding of no significant impact” and its failure to consult with other agencies including the National Park Service before issuing the environmental assessment. The complaint then lists 12 causes of action,citing violations of the Administrative Procedure Act, the National Environmental Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Buffalo River Enabling Act.

    In the final part of the suit, the plaintiffs ask the court to declare the Farm Service Agency’s environmental assessment and finding of no significant impact unlawful, enjoin implementation of the loan guarantees issued by the agencies and require the agencies to conduct a new environmental assessment in consultation with the National Park Service.

    Nelson of the Small Business Administration declined to comment when contacted. Calls to Newkirk’s office seeking comment were not returned.

    Chang said that although the farm has been in operation for several months, and that the suit, even if successful, would likely not lead to the revocation of the farm owners’ operational permits, a successful case would require agency officials to take steps to address possible environmental problems that could stem from the farm.

    “I don’t think we’re talking about time travel,” Chang said. “There are certain mitigation measures that can be taken. It’s [the Farm Service Agency’s] responsibility to consider what conditions can be attached to loan guarantees. Our suit is based on the fact that they didn’t follow procedures. It was the agencies’ job to do this work, and they did not.”

    C&H Hog Farms, which is permitted to house about 2,500 full-grown sows and as many as 4,000 piglets at a time, is the first and only such facility in Arkansas to receive a general water discharge permit through the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.

    The owners of the farm, Jason Henson and his cousins Philip and Richard Campbell, have land-use agreements that provide about 630 acres of grasslands upon which to spread the nitrogen- and phosphorous-rich manure produced by the hogs. According to the farm’s nutrient management plan, hogs in the facility are calculated to produce more than 2 million gallons of waste each year, which is collected in two large open-air lagoons before being spread over the surrounding grasslands.

    Jack Stewart, an organizer with the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, said multiple concerns within the organization’s membership led to the decision to join the suit.
    “American tax payers should not be backing something like this,” Stewart said. “This is a [concentrated animal feeding operation] that’s been placed next to a national river, which is property of all American people.

    “The environmental assessment that was done was rushed through. Once any judge takes a look at this, he’s going to see that it needs to be looked at all over again.”

    The government has 60 days in which to reply to the filing, Chang said.
    “They could come to the table and talk about what they’re willing to do, or they may simply file their answer,” Chang said.

    Stewart said he expected a long legal battle to unfold from Tuesday’s filing.
    “The long-term effort is really just getting started,” Stewart said. “The whole issue is so egregious, we expect this is going to be a long-haul fight.”

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