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  • 27 Jul 2013 7:35 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Questions followed permit

    Mike Masterson

    There’s a new twist in the C&H Hog Farms controversy. First, though, let’s briefly review:
    You may recall that the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality scheduled no public hearings, and published no notices of application in Newton County before permitting the C&H hog factory farm in that rural county’s Buffalo National River watershed at Mount Judea.
    Moreover, neither the agency’s Newton County office nor the agency’s director were aware of the farm’s permit until after it had been issued in the late summer of 2012. During a public meeting held in Jasper (the Newton County seat) on May 8, 2013undefinedlong after it might have even matteredundefinedEnvironmental Quality permit manager John Bailey wound up answering questions on behalf of the farm’s owners.
    In short, the odiferous way this factory farm’s permit was so effortlessly issued in such a sensitive environmental area has teemed with relevant questions for me and many others.
    Now there are even more.
    A Freedom of Information Act request has led to a document that reveals that, months after the agency issued its permit, the agency’s professional engineer based in Jasper questioned methods described in the farm’s notice of intent filed with its application.
    The nationally qualified engineer, Marysia Jastrzebski, emailed her list of specific comments and concerns to Bailey on Dec. 21, 2012undefinedmonths after Environmental Quality had permitted the farm.
    Her concerns included the nature of C&H Farms’ construction contract; possible leakage and the wisdom of applying raw hog waste into karst terrain; the potential potency of that waste compared with human waste; the possible amounts of precipitation that could prompt waste spills; the adequacy, capacity and construction of the storage lagoons and engineering concerns with the levees and a missing spillway; as well as the apparent inadequacy of public notice related to properly permitting the farm.
    Bailey responded to Jastrzebski by telephone rather than in writing, according to the department’s chief communicator, Katherine Benenati. She explained that the agency has no policy that requires written responses to internal concerns expressed in writing, even from one of its engineers.
    Say what?
    It’s difficult to believe any state agency of professionals would operate that way. But why be concerned since their permit had been issued?
    It’s obvious to me that Jastrzebski wasn’t opposing the factory farm. Her questions were about the notice of intent and the manner in which the department had processed and approved the permit. The legitimate points she raised certainly should have been resolved as a matter of due diligence before the permit was issued.
    I have to believe that because this concerned department engineer expressed her relevant concerns, Gov. Mike Beebe will now ensure that Jastrzebski isn’t targeted for political retribution within the agency. I seriously doubt the people of Arkansas would look kindly on that sort of thing.
    In fact, it’s vigilant public servants like Jastrzebski who, from the nature of her salient questions, should have been overseeing the permitting process for this mislocated farm from the start, although she ordinarily wouldn’t even have been included in the permitting process for such a factory farm. (See her entire email published at my website address listed below.)
    A Jastrzebski concern of particular interest to me was that the farm’s notice of intent says up to 5,000 gallons per acre each day of hog waste would be allowed to escape into “the karst terrain within five miles from the [Buffalo National River]. We calculated that it would be approximately 3,400 [gallons] per day. We are not talking about raw domestic wastewater … but hog waste,” she writes. Hog waste is far more biologically potent than that of humans.
    Duane Woltjen, a mechanical engineer from Fayetteville and a director with the Ozark Society, said that considering the actual “planar area” of both hog-waste lagoons, each with the potential to leak, his calculations instead show some 6,190 gallons of daily hog waste potentially seeping from those holding ponds lined in clay.
    That’s potentially 1.3 million to 2.3 million gallons of hog waste leakage allowed over a year into the Buffalo National River watershed via the nearby tributary of Big Creek.
    The revelation of Jastrzebski’s email prompted Woltjen to summarize: “The quality of the Buffalo National River, the health of the citizens and the tourist economy of the region have all been greatly jeopardized by the [Department of Environmental Quality’s] clearly demonstrated incompetency, lack of diligence, obfuscation and simple underutilization of common knowledge as disclosed by this set of interdepartmental email messages.”
    Mike Masterson’s column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at mikemasterson10@hotmail.com. Read his blog at mikemastersonsmessenger.com.
  • 27 Jul 2013 7:30 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    State may fund pollution testing on hog farm in Mt. Judea

    Arkansas Times: http://m.arktimes.com/ArkansasBlog/archives/2013/07/26/state-may-fund-pollution-testing-on-hog-farm-in-mt-judea?section=868702

    Posted by David Ramsey on Fri, Jul 26, 2013 at 12:58 PM

    TESTING PROPOSED: C&H hog farm is willing.
    I’ve heard from a number of lawmakers and stakeholders that the governor is having ongoing discussions about state-funded, independent testing 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 state would contract with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture to conduct nutrient and bacteria monitoring on soil and water on and near the farm. The scope of the project is unclear at this point.
    “The governor has been looking for a way that we can work within existing state laws and regulations to have as much monitoring on the hog farm operation as possible,” said Matt DeCample, Gov. Mike Beebe’s spokesman. “What he wants to do is to propose using rainy day funds, which would need legislative approval, to do ongoing testing and monitoring up along that part of the watershed. We’re working with the University of Arkansas on that.”

    DeCample said that the project is “by no means a done deal” and that he had no details at this time about what the testing might entail. The C&H farmers are on board, but they also need permission from the various landowners that the farmers lease from.

    DeCample said there was no timetable on a formal announcement or proposal.
  • 26 Jul 2013 8:15 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) has extended the comment period on proposed changes to the current permit for a Yell County hog farm.

    The extension was granted after a citizen requested an extension at a public hearing in Dardanelle on July 22, 2013, to discuss the proposed changes to the permit. The comment period was set to expire at the end of the hearing.
    The facility, owned by Michael Darr, doing business as Darr Swine Farm, is located at 10519 Gibson Lake Rd., east of State Highway 7 about four miles south of Dardanelle. The proposed permit modification would increase the number of hogs allowed at the facility, add land application sites for animal waste, and allow the construction and operation of a second earthen holding pond for liquid waste from the operation.
    Written comments on the proposed changes may be sent to Casey Vickerson, Water Division, Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, 5301 Northshore Drive, North Little Rock, AR 72118. Electronic mail comments may also be sent to: Water-Draft-Permit-Comment@adeq.state.ar.us. The deadline for submitting written or E-mail comments is 4:30 p.m. July 26, 2013.
    Interested parties should contact Casey Vickerson at the above address or by telephone at 501-682-0648 for information about the proposed permit, including instructions on how to obtain or view a copy of the proposal.
  • 24 Jul 2013 10:27 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    From NWAOnline: 

    Hog-Farm Plan Goes To Hearing
    Many Back Darr Expansion
    By Ryan McGeeney

    DARDANELLE - When Mike Darr, co-owner of Darr Swine Farm near Dardanelle, began planning to expand the farm he and his family have worked for about the past 20 years, the last thing he thought it would cost him was a neighbor.

    “We used to wave at each other as we drove by,” said Darr, referring to members of the Pelto family, who own and operate a 200-acre cattle operation located nearby. “We don’t do that anymore.”

    The Darrs, who are contracted to provide pigs for Cargill, Inc., are hoping to nearly triple their current operation, expanding from 580 sows, four boars, and 800 weaner pigs to 1,500 sows, five boars, 800 weaners and as many as 2,000 nursery pigs. The expansion requires larger housing facilities, an additional lagoon to handle the hog waste and additional acreage upon which to spread the manure.

    In December, Darr applied for a statewide general permit for concentrated animal feeding operations from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, but later withdrew the application and instead submitted a request to modify the farm’s existing permit, a Regulation 5 no-discharge permit. Had Darr received the general permit for which he’d applied in December, Darr Swine Farm would’ve been only the second operation in Arkansas to receive the permit, after C&H Hog Farms in Mount Judea.

    In April, members of the Pelto family requested a permit hearing from the Environmental Quality Department, citing public health concerns over the expansion of Darr Swine Farm. Trish Pelto, daughter-in-law to Daniel Pelto, who began farming in the county in the early 1970s, led the effort, gathering petition signatures and seeking advice from organizations including the Socially Responsible Agricultural Project, a nonprofit advocacy organization based in Idaho that helps individuals organize political resistance against large-scale “factory” farms.

    Trish Pelto acknowledged that there had been a cooling between the families since she began her efforts to slow the Darr family’s farm expansion.

    “We haven’t spoken to each other,” Pelto said. “It’s really driven a wedge between the two families. We were never that close, but we’d wave to each other, acknowledge each other. Now that’s not really the case.”

    On Monday, the Environmental Quality Department held a public hearing on the proposed permit modification at the Dardanelle City Hall. Representatives from the department, including deputy director and water division chief Ryan Benefield, assistant water division manager Mo Shafii, water division engineer supervisor Katherine Yarberry and water division engineer Casey Vickerson, gave an overview of the typical permitting process and provided some specific details about the Darr Swine Farm permit modification before opening the room to questions from those in attendance.

    More than 50 people attended, about a half-dozen of them wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the phrase “No CAFOs,” referring to concentrated animal feeding operations, defined by the Environmental Protection Agency as any agricultural operations where animals are confined indoors at least 45 days in a 12-month period, where no vegetation is growing within the confinement area and where the number of animals falls within agency-established criteria.

    Kathy Martin, an environmental consultant whom Pelto asked to assist in the effort to halt the expansion of the Darr farm, immediately began peppering department representatives with questions regarding a series of perceived inconsistencies in the Darr’s comprehensive nutrient-management plan, a 290-page document outlining how operators will deal with the waste of several thousand animals.

    Others in attendance asked department representatives about whether the property values of neighboring landowners would be a factor in the department’s decision on the permit, or whether the department regulated strong odors sometimes associated with hog farming.

    The answer to both questions was “no.”

    “This permit does not cover air emissions,” Benefield said. “The department can only regulate those things which we’ve been given the authority to regulate, either by the federal government or the state government.”

    Many of the people in attendance supported the Darrs and their desire to expand. Several made comments in favor of the Darrs and the regulatory process, rather than pose questions to the representatives.

    After the period of open discussion, Benefield announced the hearing would begin, during which residents would have five minutes each to read their official written comments aloud, before being entered into the department’s official record.

    The official statements were a mixture of concerns over technical aspects of the farm’s nutrient-management plan and emotional appeals in support of the farm.

    Darr emphasized his family’s commitment to farming in the area.

    “I’m not here to badmouth anyone, or disrespect anyone, but I do want everyone here to know my family story,” Darr said, reading from a prepared statement.

    “Some citizens that live down our dead-end road are saying that this would affect water quality,” Darr said. “These citizens don’t know our family, as we are diehard outdoorsmen that love to hunt and fish and will do nothing to jeopardize these activities for our future generations. As a farmer, I have an unwritten oath to protect the environment and to leave the land better than I received it.

    “We live 10 times closer than anyone to this hog farm,” Darr said. “So who do you think would be the most at risk here? Do you think, if there were any truth to this issue, that I would jeopardize my precious family, as we breathe the same air as these citizens do?”

    Martin asked those in attendance to consider the concerns voiced by the Pelto family and others without regard to their personal support of the Darr family.

    “If you have nearly a million gallons of feces and urine sitting in three ponds out back yonder, and you don’t believe there are any pollutants or pathogens of concern, and you don’t believe there’s any threat to your family, then we certainly can’t rely upon you to protect the people across the street,” Martin said.

    “This is not some obscure urban myth, concocted to torture you,” Martin said. “This is science coming back and saying, ‘Hey - if you have 800,000 gallons of fecal matter, it’s volatilizing. You’re inhaling it. If you can smell it, it is inside your body.”

    Benefield said the period for submitting written comments on the proposed permit modification had been extended through 4:30 p.m. July 26. Comments can be sent to Casey Vickerson, Water Division, Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, 5301 Northshore Drive, North Little Rock, Ark. 72118, or emailed to Water-Draft-Permit-Comment@adeq.state.ar.us.

    Katherine Benenati, a department spokesman, said the department will respond to all comments before making a final decision on whether to approve the permit modification.

  • 18 Jul 2013 6:36 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Defecation Nation: Pig Waste Likely to Rise in U.S. from Business Deal
    A proposed acquisition of Smithfield Foods would send pork to China and leave more pig feces in the U.S., potentially increasing the risk of superbug infections and other diseases

    By Dina Fine Maron Scientific American, July 12, 2013

    We put up with a lot of crap - literally.

    Last year, at least 4.7 billion gallons of hog manure in the U.S. came from one company, Smithfield foods, the nation's leading pork producer. The feces load will rise if U.S. regulators green-light a proposed merger that would bring the firm under the auspices of a China-based company. That increase could also promote the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and increase health risks for hog farm workers and the communities living around them.

    Under a proposed multibillion-dollar deal, Hong Kong–based Shuanghui International Holdings would buy Virginia-based Smithfield Foods. The stated purpose of the merger, the companies say, is to efficiently increase pork production. If the deal goes as planned, Smithfield will ultimately export more meat to China, where the appetite for pork continues to climb upward even as Americans buy less of it. But with that expected production boost comes an uptick in hog feces left in the U.S.undefinedand subsequent health and environmental risks.

    The impacts of industrial-scale hog production like Smithfield’s have played out in the courts and medical journals for decadesundefinedlargely from the way the firms handle the waste. The majority of hog feces from Smithfield sits in earthen lagoons where it naturally ages for six to 12 months before the slurry is then sprayed on agricultural fields as fertilizer.

    Studies on communities living around such farms have indicated individuals exposed to the odors and emissions from around the lagoons have more respiratory complaints and increased asthma symptoms. Moreover, when hogs are raised in crowded environments in industrial-scale farms they require greater quantities of antibiotics (pdf) to promote growth and compensate for unsanitary conditions. That antibiotic use is linked with increased antibiotic resistance in humans.

    Indeed, researchers in particular worry that antibiotic-laden hog manure can seep into the water and air as well as bodies of people surrounding such farms, with subtle implications both for health and for the spread of antibiotic resistance. In one study high concentrations of antibiotic and multidrug-resistant bacteria were detected inside and downwind of an industrial-size swine production facility, but not upwind. Other work linked antimicrobial-resistant bacteria in groundwater and private drinking wells to swine facilities located upstream. This month more than 580 residents of eastern North Carolinaundefinedthe state with the most Smithfield hogsundefinedfiled complaints against the company, charging that the pollution from that hog production deprives them of the use and enjoyment of their property.

    Smithfield, which operates across 12 states, brought 15.8 million hogs to market in fiscal 2012undefinedand each hog, according to the company, produced an average of 1,100 to 1,300 liters of manure during its lifetime (including the water used to push the pig feces into pits below their pens). Smithfield says there will be no changes to the company’s production practices or its sustainability plan. “It will be the same old Smithfieldundefinedonly better,” Larry Pope, company president and chief executive officer, told the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry on July 10. “Without this opportunity to grow outside of the United States there is no opportunity for U.S. pork producers to expand.”

    With the deal, Shuanghui is getting something more important than more meat, charges Usha Haley, professor of management and expert on emerging markets at West Virginia University. The company would also be acquiring the clout of Smithfield’s name and knowledge of U.S. production practices and technology, she says. The merger would then help fuel China’s shift toward even more hog farms that adopt Smithfield’s vertically integrated processesundefinednamely, industrial-size farms that raise pigs in close quarters and dispose of their waste through the lagoon-and-spray method, thereby threatening to reproduce the same health and antibiotic-resistance issues in China.

  • 11 Jul 2013 11:54 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    PUBLIC VIEWPOINT: Time To Fight Goliath Corporations
    By Ginny Masullo, Fayetteville

    Another large hog facility is seeking a permit in Arkansas.
    This time the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality will hold a public meeting regarding this specific operation in Yell County, as they so flagrantly did not do for the C&H hog facility in the Buffalo River watershed. This meeting will be at 6 p.m. July 22 in the Dardanelle City Hall, 120 N. Front St.
    The more I read about these operations, the more I am amazed that they are allowed to continue to pollute our air and waterand our food. Corporations such as Cargill like to put a positive spin on their environmental record.
    However, if one begins to explore what they have done to devastate air and water quality all over the world we see the negative eftects of their so-called environmental practices and ethical standards. (http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/ tools-and-resources/cargilla-threat-to-food-andfarming/)
    Cargill and other corporations like them are who we are up against to preserve areas like the Buftalo River, not tomention our sources of food. These corporations need to be held accountable for the unsafe practices they promote.
    As noted by the nonprofit Corporate Research Project (http://www.corp-research. org/cargill) Cargill has frequently been associated with controversies involving food contamination, workplace injuries, anti competitive practices and environmental violations.
    These corporations with their powerful lobbies and monetary support of research institutions are Goliath and we, the people, are David. Our bag of stones includes not allowing farm subsidies to benefit these factory operations. Billing these operations as farms, which they are not, allows them something of a free pass on certain air, water and solid waste emissions.
    We need to educate ourselves about these businesses and ask that our government representatives do the same. This is an issue of our time that affects each citizen’s rights to healthy air, water and food.
    I hope we can make our voices heard.
    Opinion, Pages 5 on 07/11/2013
  • 03 Jul 2013 8:59 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Published in Arkansas Democrat Gazette, 7/2/13

    Travesty of common sense

    By Mike Masterson

    Many readers were not around when the battle to save the Buffalo River was in full force during the late 1960s and early ’70s. They wouldn’t know how it took a courageous and sustained bipartisan effort to prevent the federal government from building two dams on the Buffalo.

    Being named America’s first national river required exceptional leadership to defeat the U.S. Corps of Engineers’ long-established plan for their dams at a time when others like the Bull Shoals, Beaver and Greers Ferry dams were going up on the White River.

    Diverse champions for the river emerged during that period. They included Bentonville physician Dr. Neil Compton, who founded the Ozark Society; George Fisher, the editorial cartoonist for the Arkansas Gazette; and Doug James, founder of the state’s Audubon Society. Before the battle to save the Buffalo had ended, all of those people, along with others like former Democratic Gov. Orval Faubus and, ultimately, Republican President Richard Nixon would stand for preserving and protecting the river.

    The most key and influential supporter was the newly elected Republican congressman (the first from Arkansas’ 3rd District since Reconstruction) who quietly put together his own plan for the river, then stuck doggedly with it for five years.

    John Paul Hammerschmidt of Harrison was elected to Congress in 1966 after defeating incumbent Democratic Rep. Jim Trimble from Berryville. An odds-on favorite to win a 12th term, Trimble had been in favor of damming the Buffalo. Hammerschmidt, who grew up enjoying the magnificent bluffs and clear waters of the mystical stream, chose not to make the river his campaign issue.

    As a freshman congressman, Hammerschmidt examined the Corps of Engineers’ damming plans for the White River and its tributaries, including the Buffalo River. He told reporter David Holsted of the Harrison Daily Times in 2012 that he became convinced the Buffalo should remain a pure, free-flowing Ozarks stream.

    The state’s only Republican congressman, Hammerschmidt established links with the National Park Service while seeking support from his Arkansas congressional colleagues. He also forged an alliance with two influential and established congressmen with experience in the nation’s waterways, Republican John Saylor of Pennsylvania and Democrat Wayne Aspinall of Colorado.

    In his third of what would become 13 terms, with his bill to make the Buffalo America’s first national river complete, he enlisted Democratic Sen. J.W. Fulbright to carry the legislation to the Senate, which passed the bill as it had been constructed in the House.

    “I had a lot of help, and I just had to wait a while,” Hammerschmidt told reporter Joe Mosby in 2012.

    The bill had become a point of heated contention back home. With two generations of his family in the lumber business, the Hammerschmidts had forged friendships among those who harvested timber for his company across the Buffalo River watershed. As with his father, Art Hammerschmidt, John Paul had come to know many folks in the hills who turned against him because of his crusade to save the river. It was a difficult period personally for the determined gentleman.

    In 1972, President Nixon finally signed the bill. The Buffalo River became the Buffalo National River under management of the National Park Service.

    Now 91 years young, Hammerschmidt told me he realizes efforts he and everyone involved put forth were well worth the result. It’s been especially gratifying for him to realize that many of those who’d opposed his efforts 40 years ago now tell him he was right to protect the river.

    That leads me to present-day events. I can’t help but contrast the selfless leadership displayed four decades ago with what I see as widespread bipartisan lack of effort today when it has come to assertively protecting the river from possible risk of contamination from this hog factory. The relative silence and avoidance by our elected political public servants shows me just how far we have fallen in relying on them to do the right thing by the people who elected them to protect the public interest.

    So I asked him (and yes, he’s still my uncle) for his thoughts on the state Department of Environmental Quality permitting this farm as it did. I’d say he certainly earned standing to offer significant comment.

    Warning to fence-sitters-his response is anything but mealymouthed: “I cannot feasibly imagine the travesty of common sense created by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality’s decision to grant the permit for the industrial hog farm in Newton County,” he said. “Even the average citizen from our part of the state knows the porous nature of our hills and valleys with their underground caves and karst geology. To me it is obvious that theADEQ should have run dye tests from the hog farm location to see if indeed the runoff would ultimately flow into Big Creek and from that tributary eventually into our pristine Buffalo River. To me this cannot be allowed to happen.

    “I also can’t understand why the guardian of our national treasure, the National Park Service, evidently wasn’t notified or consulted beforehand. I am still hopeful a way will be found to reverse the state agency decision and stop this travesty of justice and misregulation.”

  • 30 Jun 2013 8:18 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Why I write on

    Mike Masterson

    Some readers must be wondering if ol’ Mike’s gone hog wild with swine fever. I can’t blame them after two dozen or so columns about the state’s wrongheaded decision to permit the Mount Judea hog factory (calling itself a family farm) smack in the Buffalo National River watershed.
    I simply realize what these pristine waters and towering bluffs flowing through the heart of God’s Country mean to me and many thousands of Arkansans and Americans.
    And I understand how hard a band of devoted brothers who appreciate the mystical nature of this stream fought during the early 1970s (and continue their struggle) to protect and preserve it for generations to come as our country’s first national river.
    The multinational corporate giant and supplier of these hogs, Cargill Inc., has its public relations department to churn out favorable releases. The owners of C&H Hog Farms have their supporters that include the Arkansas Farm Bureau, the U.S. Farm Service Agency, our own state’s Department of Environmental Quality (cough, ’scuse me) and the Newton County Quorum Court where one of the farm’s owners holds a seat.
    I’ve chosen to speak on behalf of the river. Plus, I’ve never cared for the irrational way our state too often conducts the public’s business, supposedly in the public’s best interests. Those who endured four years of my writings about the failure of our state’s criminal injustice system in the travesty known as the death of Marshall’s Janie Ward understand that quirk of my nature.
    It’s the plethora of irregularities and the quiet manner in which this farm was eased across all bureaucratic hurdles that have caused me to question how this travesty unfolded in such a treasured location.
    Initially I wondered in whose mind the idea for a massive hog factory in the karst-riddled Buffalo watershed originated. Cargill says the factory farm it is supplying and supporting is run by experienced, capable family farm hogsters who initially approached their corporation with the idea to raise many thousands of swine near Big Creek, a major Buffalo tributary.
    Perhaps. Yet I feel the entity to profit most clearly is Cargill. The farmers secured a loan guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency to raise Cargill’s swine. But while doing all the work, they also shoulder the burdens and risks should unexpected environmental disasters occur as they have in other states.
    I’m deeply troubled to see the state’s Department of Environmental Quality issue the farm’s operating permit, then claim it had no choice because the place met all its criteria. That sounds kinda like animal control approving a full-grown hippo as a house pet because, after all, the behemoth had all its body parts intact.
    Even the agency’s own director, Teresa Marks, said she didn’t know her staff was awarding the permit until it was done; agency staff in Newton County, based nearest the farm, said they weren’t aware the hog factory was approved until it had been. Our governor, who appointed Marks, said through his spokesman that given his “druthers,” he wouldn’t have permitted the farm. Talk about a game of who’s on first!
    Others who apparently didn’t know the factory was being permitted include the National Park Service office that manages the river, the state health department and the folks at Game and Fish. There were no public hearings held in Newton or Boone counties.
    Then I spoke with Randall Mathis, who had held Marks’ job under three governors. Mathis explained that he established a policy against placing new contained animal feeding operations in the Buffalo River watershed. He said he issued a moratorium on such factories there in 1992 because of the pervasive limestone subsurface.
    With that karst problem in the Ozarks being well understood, why didn’t this agency insist on groundwater flow studies before giving its approval? One of the nation’s foremost karst experts has since agreed to conduct those tests. Why hasn’t the department (or the farmers) jumped on that offer?
    Mathis can’t fathom how an Environmental Quality director could possibly not know this permit was happening well in advance.
    I see understandable outrage expressed in the National Park Service’s rebuke of the Farm Service Agency’s environmental assessment on this hog factory in guaranteeing its loan with taxpayer contributions. The Park Service (also wrongly listed as a supporter of the assessment in that document) cited 45 instances of what it deemed omissions, errors and misstatements in the filing.
    Then I learned that the Farm Service Agency official who said he oversaw his agency’s loan guarantee is married to a relative of the family that owns this facility. Did that make any difference? It appears odd at best to me, but decide for yourself.
    The bottom line about this misplaced hog factory has been that the government’s roles in approving this home for 6,500 swine is filled with more gaps, fissures and fractures than the karst underlying most of Newton County.
    Amid such shocking loss of common sense, I continue to write on, soooie.
    Mike Masterson’s column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at mikemasterson10@hotmail. com. Read his blog at mikemastersonsmessenger.com.

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