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  • 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.
  • 29 Jun 2013 10:53 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Contact Information: Katherine Benenati / 501.682.0821 / benenati@adeq.state.ar.us<mailto:benenati@adeq.state.ar.us>

    FOR RELEASE: JUNE 28, 2013


    The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) will hold a public meeting and hearing at Dardanelle July 22, 2013, to discuss proposed changes to the current permit for a Yell County hog farm, and accept comments on the proposed changes. The event will begin at 6 p.m. in the Dardanelle City Hall, 120 N. Front St.

    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.

    ADEQ technical staff will be available at the meeting/hearing to discuss and answer questions about the proposed permit modification. In addition, a hearing officer will be present to accept public comments, which will be limited to the proposed changes to the existing permit. Oral and written statements will be accepted, but written comments are preferred in the interest of accuracy.

    Prior to the public meeting/hearing, 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<mailto:Water-Draft-Permit-Comment@adeq.state.ar.us>. The deadline for submitting written or E-mail comments prior to the hearing is 4:30 p.m. July 19, 2013. Oral and written comments will be accepted at the meeting/ hearing, but the comment period will be closed upon adjournment of the event.

    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.


  • 27 Jun 2013 1:53 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    The E.P.A. Backs Off on Factory Farms
    Published: June 14, 2013

    The Environmental Protection Agency is obliged under the Clean Water Act to monitor America’s waterways and shield them from the toxic runoff from factory farms. But the growth of that industry, and its courtroom tenacity, has far outstripped the E.P.A.’s efforts to restrict runoff from manure lagoons and feedlots.
    Last year, the agency meekly withdrew two proposed rules. One would have gathered basic information from all factory farms. The other proposed rule would have expanded the number of such farms required to have a national pollution discharge permit. Fewer than 60 percent do now.

    Then, last week, in yet another retreat, the agency announced that promised new regulations governing feedlot discharges nationally would not be forthcoming.

    According to the E.P.A.’s own studies, agricultural runoff is the leading cause of impaired water quality. The amount of manure produced by factory farms is staggering. The agency estimates that those operations create between 500 million and 1 billion tons of manure, three times as much waste as humans produce in the United States. The task of keeping those hundreds of millions of tons of animal waste out of rivers, lakes and estuaries is enormous, clearly requiring a strong set of revised regulations for the handling of factory-farm waste, including provisions for tracking waste when it’s been moved offsite.

    Right now, the patchwork of regulations undefined which assume a great deal of self-policing undefined suits the factory-farm industry all too well. So does the E.P.A.’s inability to gather even the most basic information about those farms. The industry believes that the less consumers know, the better. President Obama’s nominee to lead the E.P.A., Gina McCarthy, is still awaiting Senate confirmation. If and when she gets the job, she should make it an early priority to get the data she needs to shed light on undefined and forcefully regulate undefined an industry that thrives on ignorance.

  • 27 Jun 2013 1:13 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    3 agencies reverse course on Blueway

    Legislators hear of public backlash


    A public outcry that the federal government will seize private property near the White River caused three state agencies Wednesday to backpedal on their support for designation of the river as a National Blueway.
    The watershed received the conservation-related designation in January, but concerns over the practical effect of the honor rose in the past few weeks, fed in large part by a conservative group opposing the Blueway, Secure Arkansas, and landowners who say they weren’t consulted about goals set in the application.
    “This looks like to us that they’re putting habitat over human,” the group’s chairman, Jeannie Burlsworth, said. The House and Senate Committees on City, County and Local Affairs heard testimony from state and federal groups and officials for 4 ½ hours Wednesday afternoon.
    The Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Arkansas Waterways Commission, along with the Nature Conservancy and Ozark Water Watch, announced at the meeting that their support of the designation could impede work on conservation matters because landowners are wary of new federal regulations.
    “We like the recognition and the prestigiousness, but it’s not worth the sacrificing our ability and capacity to work with private landowners,” Game and Fish Commission Deputy Director Mike Armstrong said. “We didn’t foresee the backlash, I’ll be honest with you.”
    Each group said it still thinks the Blueway designation is best for the region because it will encourage agencies to work together and make the White River more competitive for federally funded projects, such as its two trout hatcheries that supply the river with fish. Armstrong said the hatcheries have consistently been underfunded.
    “I think that the federal government would have been embarrassed had they allowed these two hatcheries to lapse and go underfunded in a designation that they brought to focus attention to good collaboration and good watershed management,” Armstrong said.
    Natural Resources Commission Executive Director Randy Young said that within the next two weeks the organizations will either ask the federal Department of the Interior to remove the designation permanently or temporarily until they can soothe fears and answer landowners’ questions.
    The watershed was nominated by the National Wildlife Refuge Association in Washington, D.C., but the nomination was supported by dozens of other groups such as Ducks Unlimited, the Arkansas Parks and Tourism Department, the state Forestry Commission as well as the towns of Clarendon and Augusta and two small businesses. Young said other groups supporting the designation may also need to pull support.
    The White River flows more than 700 miles from its headwaters in the Ozarks of Missouri to its mouth at the Mississippi River. The designation includes a portion of Missouri.
    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refuge manager Keith Weaver told committee members that the designation has no effect on property rights in the watershed, which makes up about one-third of the land in Arkansas. The order creating the Blueway program states that it is not intended to affect the use of private property, and the federal government has said repeatedly that the designation creates no new laws or regulations.
    Instead the Blueway designation was created to encourage local communities to work with state and federal agencies on conservation, Weaver said.
    That hasn’t calmed fears so far. Prompted by Secure Arkansas, quorum courts in 12 counties have passed resolutions opposing the Blueway designation. Lawmakers told the at least 100 people packed in a committee room at the Capitol on Wednesday that they first learned of the designation when the Interior Department announced it in January.
    When Rep. Stephen Meeks, R-Greenbrier, suggested having the designation put on hold until the public becomes more comfortable or having it withdrawn completely, attendees yelled out their preference.
    “Withdrawn, withdrawn,” they chanted.
    Also Wednesday, members of the Arkansas and Missouri congressional delegations asked Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to answer questions about the Blueway program.
    Burlsworth said after the meeting that county officials should have been allowed to weigh in. She said the initial application sets conservation goals for the area, such as returning some land to seasonal flooding and restoring forestland near the river, that aren’t supported by landowners.
    “They felt like they could just give the order and it [would] just be obeyed and everybody fall in line,” Burlsworth said. “The public has been burned and it is going to stop.”
    Weaver said landowners could choose to meet those goals, but the federal government wasn’t going to force them to comply.
    The Arkansas Farm Bureau was seeking answers to its concerns about the Blueway designation, but hadn’t taken a position, bureau rural development coordinator Beau Bishop said.
  • 27 Jun 2013 7:24 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    This Ozarks At Large report by Jacqueline Froelich focuses on the battle between Oklahoma and Arkansas over pollution, primarily phosphorus, of the Illinois River by Arkansas poultry producers. While not directly related to hog CAFOs, it does show how industry will attempt to weaken and undermine efforts to protect water quality. The warning for me is that when phosphorus levels (or other pollutants) rise in the Buffalo attributable to C & H hog farm, industry will inevitably attempt to establish "tolerable" levels. This explains ADEQ's comments that CAFOs will no doubt have an impact on the Buffalo, and other waters of the state, but the issue for them is where "impact" causes "harm". Who gets to define "harm"?
  • 27 Jun 2013 7:10 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Deadly piglet virus spreads to nearly 200 U.S. farm site

    Outbreak of deadly piglet virus spreads to 13 U.S. states
    Wed, Jun 19 2013
    By P.J. Huffstutter

    CHICAGO | Mon Jun 24, 2013 5:51pm EDT
    (Reuters) - A swine virus deadly to young pigs, and never before seen in North America, has spiked to 199 sites in 13 states - nearly double the number of farms and other locations from earlier this month.

    Iowa, the largest U.S. hog producer, has the most sites testing positive for Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus: 102 sites, as of June 10. The state raises on average 30 million hogs each year, according to the Iowa Pork Producers Association.

    PEDV, most often fatal to very young pigs, causes diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration. It also sickens older hogs, though their survival rate tends to be high.

    The total number of pig deaths from the outbreak since the first cases were confirmed May 17 is not known.

    Researchers at veterinarian diagnostic labs, who are testing samples as part of a broad investigation into the outbreak, have seen a substantial increase in positive cases since early June, when data on the PEDV outbreak showed it at some 103 sites nationwide.

    The data was compiled and released last week by Iowa State University, University of Minnesota, Kansas State University and South Dakota State University.

    The virus does not pose a health risk to humans or other animals and the meat from PEDV-infected pigs is safe for people to eat, according to federal officials and livestock economists.

    But the virus, which is spreading rapidly across the United States, is proving harder to control than previously believed. In addition to Iowa, Oklahoma has 38 positive sites, Minnesota has 19 and Indiana has 10, according to the data.

    PEDV has also been diagnosed in Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and South Dakota.

    Swine veterinarians, investigators with the U.S. Agriculture Department and others are trying to determine how the virus is spreading from farm to farm and state to state. Currently the focus is on the nation's livestock transportation system.

    PEDV is spread most commonly by pigs ingesting contaminated feces. Investigators are studying physical transmission, such as truck trailers marred with contaminated feces, or a person wearing dirty boots or with dirty nails.

    While the virus has not tended to kill older pigs, mortality among very young pigs infected in U.S. farms is commonly 50 percent, and can be as high at 100 percent, say veterinarians and scientists who are studying the outbreak.

    The strain of the PEDV virus that is making its way across the nation's hog farms and slaughterhouses is 99.4 percent similar in genetic structure to the PEDV that hit China's herds last year, according to the U.S. researchers.

    After PEDV was first diagnosed in China in 2010, it overran southern China and killed more than 1 million piglets, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal.

    No direct connection has been found between the U.S. outbreak and previously identified outbreaks in Asia and Europe, say scientists and researchers.

    (Reporting by P.J. Huffstutter. Additional reporter by Theopolis Waters.; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer)

  • 24 Jun 2013 7:08 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    CAFO a mistake

    Mathis weighs in

    Mike Masterson

    The man who led our state’s Department of Environmental Quality under three governors says it was a big mistake to ever issue a permit to operate that concentrated animal feeding operation for 6,500 sows and piglets in the Buffalo National River watershed at Mount Judea.
    Randall Mathis told me the permit to C&H Hog Farms Inc. never couldundefinedor wouldundefinedhave been approved had he still been heading the department. He said he did everything in his power during his 18 years with the agency to ensure the environmentally sensitive watershed was protected from contamination.
    “Regardless of how well this farm is operated, it’s a serious mistake to land-apply hog waste in a karst area like this, ” he said. “I don’t understand why this matter hasn’t already been addressed and changed in order to protect one of the state’s extraordinary resource streams. This certainly wouldn’t have happened on my watch.”
    Mathis retired from the agency in 2000 at age 70. He served the agency then known as the Department of Pollution Control and Ecology under Govs. Bill Clinton, Jim Guy Tucker and Mike Huckabee, and was its director when the name changed to the Department of Environmental Quality. Afterwards, he served on the Pollution Control and Ecology Commission, which oversees the agency.
    Mathis intimately understands the environment of our state and the treacherous and unpredictable nature of drainage in the limestone karst formations that underlie Newton County.
    This “hog factory,” supplied and supported by Cargill Inc., was permitted in the fall of 2012 unbeknownst to the present agency Director Teresa Marks, the National Park Service, the state Health Department, Game and Fish and the Department of Environmental Quality’s own staff in the Newton County seat. No public hearings were held in Newton or adjacent Boone County where the Park Service has its Buffalo River office. Arkansas’ requirements for issuing such permits obviously are wholly inadequate and ineffective.
    By the way, where have all our apparently mute elected “leaders” (with the exception of Warwick Sabin, Greg Leding and Kelley Linck) been hiding from such an important matter? Thousands of hogs got your tongues?
    This farm is said to meet the requirements for permitting, built to withstand leakage and operated by a reputable and capable hog-raising family. None of that’s been an issue with me. My problem is a hog factory producing millions of gallons of waste land-applied near Big Creek, a major tributary to the magnificent Buffalo National River a few miles downstream and replenished by underground springs flowing through the karst.
    I’m equally concerned, as are many others, that no dye studies were done on karst formations beneath the application fields, or the farm itself. Then there are those questionable approval documents and the gatekeeping processes that I see as deeply flawed that somehow allowed to place this factory where it is today.
    Mathis has identical concerns. And he knows what he’s talking about. During his tenure, this straight-speaking man, who at 83 still tends the family farm near Arkadelphia, said he was dedicated to protecting our state’s streams designated as extraordinary resources, the queen of which being the Buffalo. He also said he had four deputies who each managed various agency divisions and with whom he met twice daily to stay up to speed.
    Mathis issued a specific policy that said he’d be immediately notified of any proposals to locate a CAFO in karst regions of the Ozarks, especially the Buffalo watershed. More significantly, in 1992 he issued a moratorium on placing any CAFOs in the Buffalo watershed, period. Anyone else wondering in 2013 what happened to that protective moratorium and his policy? Who got rid of them? Why?
    Today, Mathis can’t fathom how anyone in his former position could possibly not know their agency was issuing its first hog CAFO permit under the new general permit in the Buffalo watershed. “I would have shut that idea down immediately,” he said. “As I said, during my tenure we were especially sensitive to any possible pollution of the Buffalo.”
    He told me he blamed the agency staff for bringing the permit to the Pollution Control and Ecology Commission for approval. “I don’t fault the commission as much as I do the agency’s director and deputy director for ever even presenting this to them,” he said. “They should have known better. It certainly wouldn’t have happened on my watch.”
    He feels it’s a matter of time until hog waste will flow through the karst into Big Creek and the Buffalo. Such leakage would naturally elevate the coliform bacteria levels in the Buffalo. And that troubles him even more.
    “Were I still at ADEQ , I’d call for a meeting of the commission and issue another moratorium on any hog CAFOs and other operations that need to be limited to prevent polluting this national river,” he said. “It’s just common sense.”

    Mike Masterson’s column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at mikemasterson10@hotmail.com. Read his blog at mikemastersonsmessenger.com.
  • 16 Jun 2013 9:13 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    In search of leadership

    Mike Masterson

    With Mike Beebe’s spokesman saying if he’d had his “druthers,” the governor wouldn’t have permitted that controversial hog factory in the Buffalo National watershed in Newton County, I wondered about the druthers of Sen. John Boozman and Rep. Steve Womack over the waste from 6,500 swine deposited on karst-riddled land within reach of the river.
    Boozman’s office initially implied in a May letter to a constituent that any confusion involved with this farm’s location largely originated with the Buffalo National River Park’s Harrison office that should have known about the plan before the concentrated animal feeding operation for hogs was permitted.
    That rationale confused me, especially since that Park Service office was one of many that (for whatever reasons) was not informed about permitting this hog factory. Among the other uninformed were the director of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, which permitted the farm, that agency’s staff in Newton County, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Arkansas Health Department.
    To me, any fault for the way this quietly came to pass lay anywhere but with the Park Service and its Buffalo National River office. That’s the very agency that ultimately blew the whistle when it discovered what it called multiple inadequacies in this farm’s loan report prepared by the U.S. Farm Service Agency. We should be congratulating these folks.
    Thankfully, the Republican senator’s original position has since broadened as the new facts detailing the extent of such widespread ignorance have come to light. Philip Moore with Boozman’s office says the senator now believes all the agencies involved could have done a much better job of communicating about the hog factory being placed where it now exists.
    True, but that position seems relatively insignificant to me now that the factory is up and generating waste. It should be a matter of law that proposals for something this huge and potentially contaminating be ballyhooed far and wide. In fact, I still believe a U.S. Inspector General, either from Agriculture or the Interior Department, should examine why this wasn’t done and the fullest truths behind how the entire matter was handled from start to finish.
    Instead of hindsight at this stage, I’ve been searching for signs of decisive leadership and common sense.
    So I asked 3rd District GOP Rep. Womack for his opinions about the CAFO along Big Creek that flows into the Buffalo. After all, it was his own 13-term predecessor, Rep. John Paul Hammerschmidt, who in 1972 overcame multiple obstacles over years to protect this river.
    Hammerschmidt (and yes, he’s still my uncle) displayed remarkable fortitude and leadership in hammering out a bipartisan agreement that made the Buffalo America’s first national river. As the 3rd District’s representative and a leader, John Paul saw the struggle through to protect and preserve the magnificent and majestic Buffalo.
    In light of the unique heritage in the very office of public trust he holds, I believed Congressman Womack (and Boozman, his immediate predecessor) would have a special connection with any efforts to protect this sacred river. After all, Hammerschmidt pursued that goal above all else, certainly including the potential for contamination from swine waste.
    The response from Claire Burghoff in Womack’s office: “Congressman Womack has heard the concerns of constituents on both sides of this issue and will continue to keep a close eye on it.” Say what? The congressman told me on Easter weekend that he would “become involved in the matter if he needed to.”
    Naturally I wondered when and how such “need” might be determined and a translation behind “keeping a close eye” on the hog factory on behalf of constituents on “both sides of the issue.” I always believed every issue has constituents.
    I do respect Womack and Boozman. But I was hoping for clear indications of leadership from our state’s top elected officials.
    I didn’t expect fault-finding, “druthers” or eye-keeping. I can’t help but wonder what Uncle John would have done back in 1972 had he been noncommittal when the river’s future appeared at risk, or some constituents and influential contributors pushed back (which I assure you they did).
    Had he straddled the center line, I don’t believe we’d have the Buffalo National River today. Many thousands feel the same way, which prompts me to share some more edited reader views:
    From Kay: “If John Paul Hammerschmidt and Governor Orval Faubus could step up to the plate defending this grand river back in the 1960s, why can’t our Governor Beebe do the same now?”
    From Jeff: “Why aren’t all the organizations fighting against this hog farm talking to Wal-Mart? A simple ‘forget about it’ from Wal-Mart to Cargill would end this. Alice Walton, who has poured so much time and effort into the local community, could with a whisper into the ears of Wal-Mart executives put a stop to things by Monday morning. “
    From Joe: “If procedural matters don’t stop this project, something like [geoscientist John Van] Brahana’s proposal may be the only solution. If a good and detailed study could be done, the owners might have second thoughts about even operating the facility.”
    Mike Masterson’s column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at mikemasterson10@hotmail.com. Read his blog at mikemastersonsmessenger.com.
  • 12 Jun 2013 7:02 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Beebe’s druthers?

    On that hog farm

    Mike Masterson

    Iwondered how Gov. Mike Beebe feels about the risk that waste from the industrial hog farm at Mount Judea poses to the environment of the country’s first national river, a pristine tourism attraction and economic boon for decades.
    After all, he is our governor. And after all, he is dealing with his appointee in Teresa Marks, who heads the state’s Department of Environmental Quality, which permitted this controversial hog factory in the Buffalo National River’s watershed. And he is a politician who’s proven himself adept at getting things corrected and accomplished in the public interest (even behind the scenes over a telephone). Am I right?
    His aide, Matt DeCample, responded for Beebe: “If the governor had his druthers, the permit would not have been issued. However, the applicant followed all state laws and procedures and the governor or ADEQ can’t make arbitrary decisions to deny an applicant who follows the rules.”
    DeCample explained that the best way to change this kind of unimaginable threat to a state treasure from happening again “is to strengthen restrictions for areas of particular concern, such as the Buffalo River watershed. However, such action needs to be legislative. ADEQ cannot change those rules on its own.”
    How’s that for artfully wordsmithing one’s way around a superheated issue that isn’t going away?
    So there you have it. The Buffalo National River watershed can be put at risk of potential contamination from God-awful hog waste because our elected legislators have failed to protect it through responsible lawmaking. And there’s not a thing the governor or anyone in power can do, regardless of his druthers. No calls to Cargill? Wal-Mart? No come-to-Jesus chats with his own Environmental Quality director? Nothing?
    And it now appears Marks may not be the only relevant member of her agency not to know it had permitted C&H Hog Farms Inc. until it was a done deal. The employees based in the agency’s Newton County office at Jasper also were unaware until it was a done deal.
    At least that’s what Don Nelms of Jasper, a former congressional candidate and successful Fayetteville businessman, said Jasper department employees told him the other day. He said they explained that they hadn’t known about the farm before their agency permitted it. “I was shocked to hear that,” Nelms told me.
    If Nelms is right (and he usually is), it leaves me squealing yet again in the hazy realm of downright flabbergastion over the way this farm was smoothly guided through so many opened gates.
    Nelms said he also found it hard to believe the contained animal feeding operation (supplied by the multinational corporation Cargill Inc.) would be permitted in the Buffalo National River watershed without the agency director, or the staff based in that county knowing it was being considered. And if they didn’t know, why not?
    My own suspicions have been that this mega-hog factory was kept quiet and off the public radar as much as possible by powers that be until it was fully smoked and served. Not even one public hearing in either Jasper or Harrison beforehand? Really?
    Isn’t it convenient when those in positions of public responsibility can simply plead plausible deniability, ignorance and/or blame others in the heat of controversy when the obvious right thing hasn’t (or isn’t) being done? And isn’t ours a fine example of ensuring accountability and embracing plain ol’ common sense in so many matters of public concern?
    Speaking of common sense, Newton County’s quorum court fired off a response to the Fayetteville City Council’s April resolution against placing this hog factory in the Buffalo National River watershed. The Newton County body, which I understand has at least one member who’s a co-owner of the farm, said it resented the “interference in the livelihoods of these families by the city of Fayetteville and other entities.” The premise of the objection is basically that anyone who lives outside Newton County should have no say about this national river, even if they and their families and friends enjoy it.
    Tim Slape of Compton, who pushed for the court for its response to Fayetteville, offered what some from there might see as a brilliant argument when he was quoted in the Jasper weekly paper: “What I’d like to ask the quorum court to do is consider drawing up a resolution that states we’re against Bikes, Blues and Barbecue.” The reason, he said, is that the increase in motorcycle traffic passing through Newton County for the event puts an added stress on the county’s law enforcement and first responders.
    Yet again, I find myself at a loss for words. Does that means if Slape had his druthers, he wouldn’t want bikers stopping in Newton County businesses en route to Fayetteville because he compares possibly contaminating every citizens’ national river with microbes from hog waste with bikers stressing local police?
    Hmm. Well, valued readers, I believe I’ll just rest my case at the way this hog farm mess has been mishandled from the top down.
    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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