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  • 10 Jun 2013 7:22 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    The Buffalo battle

    MICHAEL DOUGHERTY
    SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE


    More than a generation ago, Arkansas residents and elected representatives joined hands to protect and preserve one of the last free-flowing rivers in the lower 48 states. In 1972 the Buffalo River, the crown jewel of Arkansas, was designated America’s first national river. The pristine spring-fed waters that wind though the Ozarks are an environmental wonderland and the heart and soul of the Natural State.
    For 40 years the Buffalo River has been essentially pollution free. But recently a state agency granted a permit that threatens its waters and the livelihoods of thousands of Arkansans. The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality approved a factory hog farm on one of the river’s major tributaries. The C & H Hog Farms, a 6,500-pig facility (and its accompanying manure and urine), sits atop porous land in Newton County that drains into Big Creek and several miles later into the Buffalo. The hog farm is contracted by Cargill, a huge international conglomerate.
    How did we get here? It’s a question that leaves all of us scratching our heads … even many elected officials. The permit was granted without notifying surrounding landowners, county residents, county officials, the Arkansas Department of Health, or the National Park Service. ADEQ simply placed a notice on its website for 30 days and another in the back of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The permitting process flew under the radar and Arkansans didn’t discover what had happened until nine months after the fact. Every state that surrounds Arkansas calls for local notifications and allows public hearings before granting a permit, but for some reason that did not happen here.
    The impact of a factory farm of 6,500 pigs is very real. Even best management practices and an operator concerned with environmental impacts can’t prevent animal waste from leaching through the limestone geology or spilling over holding ponds. C & H is proposing to dump additional phosphorus-laden waste onto fields that already have all or more than they need. This could cause significant amounts of phosphorus infiltration to groundwater and possibly runoff. And based on soil maps, seven of the 17 C & H fields are occasionally flooded by Big Creek and its tributaries throughout the time period phosphorus would be spread and applied, an issue obscured by C & H’s permit application.
    C & H Hog Farms will produce over two million gallons of manure each year. That’s 8,500 tons. In other states, year after year there are disasters:
    In July 2009, a manure holding pond ruptured in Illinois, sending 200,000 gallons into a nearby river. The spill traveled almost 20 miles downstream, killing close to 110,000 fish.
    In 2010, an Indiana hog farm operator sprayed 200,000 gallons of hog manure onto a field during rainy weather. The runoff killed 40,000 fish in two nearby rivers.
    In 2011 in Iowa, a breach in a hog manure holding pond leaked into a nearby river, killing fish five miles downstream.
    Imagine any of those scenarios happening in the Buffalo River watershed. As a national river, the Buffalo is entitled to the highest level of protection, and we shouldn’t risk contamination.
    Cargill and the people behind C & H Hog Farms have a right to make a living, but so do the people who live and work in the Buffalo River region. In 2012, direct tourism expenditures in Arkansas totaled $5.7 billion.
    The Buffalo National River is an anchor for tourism in the Ozarks where over a million people visit each year. They spend money in our stores. They rent our vacation homes. They eat in our restaurants. They fish and float our river. Last year the Buffalo River generated $38 million in revenue and created 528 jobs. In contrast, C & H Hog Farms will create only 10 jobs while generating tons of pollution and putting those other 528 jobs at risk. Tourism is a clean, locally sustainable industry that imports wealth and leaves behind no residue.
    Because of this dire threat to our river and our state, we have joined forces to protect the Buffalo River and preserve the legacy passed down to us by our parents and grandparents. The Ozark Society, the National Parks Conservation Association, the Arkansas Canoe Club and the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance are working together to correct a grave mistake.
    Hank Bates, a Little Rock environmental attorney and a member of our coalition, recently sent a letter to ADEQ Director Teresa Marks challenging the permit based upon the hog farm’s nutrient management plan and its many holes and inaccuracies. At a public meeting in Jasper, Marks said she would revoke, modify or suspend the factory farm’s permit if it contained significant omissions of relevant facts. There is no doubt that this is the case.
    Despite the overwhelming evidence that Mr. Bates supplied to ADEQ , Director Marks recently responded by essentially ignoring the law and refuting nothing. Respected hydrologists and geologists recognize the risk to our treasured river and support our position. ADEQ seems to want to sweep this under the rug and move on.
    In May, our organizations also sent a notice of intent to sue to the U.S. Department of Agriculture over its $4 million loan guarantee to the factory farm. The USDA action may violate the Endangered Species Act. The watershed is home to over 300 species of fish, insects, freshwater mussels, and aquatic plants, including the endangered snuffbox mussel, the endangered gray bat, and the endangered Indiana bat.
    Listing all of the failures and misrepresentations surrounding the permitting process would take many pages. One thing is absolutely clear, though: The actions of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality and USDA’s Farm Service Agency have threatened the livelihoods of thousands of Arkansans and the river’s fragile ecosystem.
    The Buffalo River is a regional and national treasure as well as a vital part of our economy. There are thousands of square miles in other parts of the state that are much more suitable for factory farms.
    We remain confident that this messy situation will soon be resolved expeditiously, based on the facts. The permitting process was inadequate. It did not receive proper public input. More importantly, it did not take into consideration the public health of area residents, the almost certain pollution of Arkansas’s crown jewel, and the economic threat to the region’s multimillion-dollar tourism industry.
    Michael Dougherty is president of the Buffalo River Chamber of Commerce and member of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance.
  • 09 Jun 2013 7:46 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Written by

    FRANK WALLIS

    Arkansas’ chief enforcer of environmental law has its hands full in Baxter and Newton counties.
    A war of press releases, public commentary and rebuttals continues over a large new hog farm in the Buffalo National River watershed that some believe is a threat to the ecosystem of the Ozarks.
    Little Rock attorney Hank Bates, whose clients include the Ozark Society, Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, National Parks Conservation Association and the Arkansas Canoe Club, expects to meet today with Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality Director Teresa Marks.
    That’s just a sampling of those opposed to C & H Hog Farm Inc. in Newton County. The latest undefined Dr. John Van Brahana, a retired professor of geosciences for the University of Arkansas undefined explained his opposition Monday on university letterhead stationery.
    The hog farm fight is just one on the north Arkansas front for ADEQ. The agency has filed a lawsuit against the six-county Ozark Mountain Solid Waste Management District, which includes Newton County, seeking a judge’s order to district directors to bring the NABORS landfill in north Baxter County into compliance with environmental and financial-assurance regulations.
    Citizens for Clean Water complained Wednesday about a lack of action by ADEQ for cleanup of the Damco Inc. waste tire storage site in north Baxter County. The facility is approved to store 880 bales of tires containing 100 tires each. A recent inspection shows it contains 4,000 bales of tires.
    Brahana’s complaint, directed to ADEQ director Marks, is couched in the the professor’s understanding of subterranean karst geology known as the Boone Formation underneath Newton County. The professor complains that underground water, including any from the hog farm, can move through porous karst formations as quickly as water flows above ground.
    “I know of no active karst consultant who recommends that a CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) be sited on karstified limestone, particularly up-gradient from so sensitive a natural resource as the Buffalo National River, with its direct-contact use by canoeists, fishermen and swimmers,” Brahana wrote.

    The farm sits less than six miles from the Buffalo River, near its confluence with Big Creek.
    Brahana’s letter was circulated on the Internet this week as an attachment to still another letter to Marks from Bates on behalf of the Ozark Society, Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, National Parks Conservation Association and Arkansas Canoe Club.
    Meanwhile, 30 days have passed since most of Bates’ clients, represented in Washington by law firm Earthjustice, sent a 60-day notice of intent to sue the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Farm Services Agency because of the hog farm’s alleged threat to endangered species.
    ADEQ granted a permit in August 2012 to C & H partners for concentrated feeding of up to 2,500 gestation sows and up to 4,000 piglets under roof, and storage of more than 2 million gallons of of manure, litter and wastewater. The mix is to be diluted and dispersed by liquid spray applicators over a 630-acre area, according to a 260-page permit application posted to ADEQ’s website.
    The following statement is a common thread in press releases from organizations opposed to the farm:
    “The C & H facility’s loan and guarantee were issued in the summer and fall of 2012. Because of a failure to notify local residents, however, the community in and around Mount Judea did not find out about the facility’s construction until this year. The lack of adequate public notice is just one of a number of egregious failures on the part of the state and federal government to ensure that this facility will not have detrimental impacts on the exceptional natural resources of the Buffalo River watershed.”
    ADEQ claims to have held six public hearings in 2011 before adopting the general permit for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations that enabled C & H Hog Farms to borrow money through the Farm Service Agency to build and operate.
    On May 15, Bates published a litany of alleged omissions, errors and misrepresentations in a nutrient management plan ADEQ approved for C & H Hog Farm based on what Bates says is an inaccurate soil test furnished by livestock feed vendor Cargill Inc. Bates says C & H’s plan to apply phosphorus-laden farm waste onto nearby fields already rich in phosphates will pollute Big Creek and the Buffalo and should mandate ADEQ to revoke the C & H permit.
    Seven days later Marks responded by letter and roundly disagreed with Bates claims.
    “A review of the data provided to ADEQ shows the correct soil type was provided and entered into the (phosphates) index spreadsheet,” Marks wrote.
    Perry Wheeler, a spokesman for the National Parks Conservation Association, said Wednesday that Bates’ meeting today with Marks will be private, to discuss issues generally.
    He said there’s no plan for a press release following the meeting.
  • 08 Jun 2013 11:27 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    County With Controversial Hog Farm Tells Fayetteville To Butt Out

    Posted on: 9:25 pm, June 7, 2013, by Austin Reed and Shain Bergan



    Newton County officials passed a resolution earlier this week asking Fayetteville leaders not to interfere in a hog farm in the county that detractors say may be harmful to the environment and the Buffalo River.
    The Newton County Quorum Court drafted and passed a measure June 3 that “opposes the interference in the livelihood of these families by the City of Fayetteville and other entities,” the resolution states.
    Fayetteville city councilmember Adella Gray shot back at Newton County officials Friday, saying that while she understands their need for autonomy, the possible pollution of the Buffalo River reaches farther than the confines of Newton County.
    The issue started in April, when the Fayetteville City Council unanimously passed a non-legally-binding resolution opposing a hog farm aldermen said could pollute the Buffalo River. Although the farm is a few counties away, Fayetteville’s resolution claimed the 6,500-head hog factory farm near Harrison could poison the river and hurt Northwest Arkansas tourism revenue.

    See 5NEWS reporter Austin Reed’s story above to hear what Newton County officials and Gray had to say Friday about the newest development in the issue.

    Fayetteville’s resolution opposing the hog farm brought out local protests against the farm, along with area farmers who, on the other side, believe the government already places too many restrictions on family farms.
    The hog farm’s owner even held an event to allow the public to tour his farm, to see his pollution safeguards.
    Members of the public on both sides of the issue spoke up during the public comment section Fayetteville’s council meeting on the matter in April. Helen Mitchell, a local realtor, said the possibility of pollution and water contamination is obvious and hog farms have decimated the environment of other areas outside of the state.
    Alderman Sarah Marsh and Mayor Lioneld Jordan, the resolution’s co-sponsors, said they have heard from several citizens on the matter and realize it is important to them that the council do whatever it can to keep pollutants from hurting the Fayetteville area.
    Beau Bishop with the Arkansas Farm Bureau told the council pollution is not likely, adding that the eighth-generation family heading the hog farm operation has taken out $4 million in loans to start the farm.
    “This is their livelihood,” Bishop said. “All they’re guilty of is following the letter of the law.”
    Alderman Justin Tennant told his fellow council members he did not feel right voting against the hog farm when so many farmers are already struggling to make a living because of increased regulations, but then cast his vote for the resolution opposing the farm.
    The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency found the hog farm would have no significant impact on the local environment and the river, a claim the City Council’s resolution calls “hard to imagine”.
    The resolution, drafted by Fayetteville city attorney Kit Williams, states hog droppings have the ability to pollute the river and keep people from canoeing or hiking along the river locally.
    “Hog excrement…smells very much worse than chicken or cow manure,” the resolution states. The state of Arkansas “would never allow a city of 6,500 people to just use lagoons that can easily overflow after a storm and flow into the nearby creek to store and ‘treat’ human waste.”
    Bishop refuted the resolution, saying hog excrement does not have the same ill effects human excrement can have on the health of those nearby.
  • 08 Jun 2013 11:24 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Animal Waste Threatens America’s First National River, Public Health, and Arkansas Tourism

    Published on Friday, 07 June 2013 15:28 

    Written by Press Release


    Groups seek review of assessment that led to federal loan guarantee for industrial swine facility in the Buffalo National River Watershed

    Mount Judea, AR--(ENEWSPF)--June 7, 2013. A coalition of conservation and citizen groups sent a letter of demand yesterday requesting that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the Small Business Administration (SBA) take action to ensure that the authorization of loan guarantee assistance to C&H Hog Farms in Mount Judea, Arkansas complies with the law. C&H is an industrial hog factoryundefinedunder contract with Cargill, an international producer and marketer of agricultural productsundefinedthat will have 6,500 swine when fully operational and is located on the banks of the Big Creek tributary that flows directly into the Buffalo National River. The groups assert that the loan guarantee to the hog facility hinges on a flawed environmental review process that violates the law and does not follow USDA’s own regulations.


    The letter is intended to notify USDA and SBA that unless acceptable solutions are implemented by July 8, 2013, the groups will be forced to seek compliance with the law in court.


    “We are compelled to move forward in our efforts to prevent this hog factory farm from proceeding without a thorough examination of the consequences,” said Emily Jones, Senior Program Manager, Southeast Region at National Parks Conservation Association. “The Buffalo River is the crown jewel of Arkansas’ natural beauty and our country’s first national river. We must protect it from the waste and pollutants spewed from an atrociously misplaced industrial facility.”

    The 150-mile Buffalo River flows through the heart of the Ozarks in northwestern Arkansas and runs through rapids and quiet pools surrounded by massive multi-colored cliffs rising nearly 700 feet above the riverbed. The river’s watershed includes 700 species of trees and plants and provides habitat for 250 species of birds and a variety of wildlife. More than one million people visit the Buffalo National River each year to canoe, float the river, swim, hike, and camp in a spectacular and unspoiled setting, generating $38 million in local economic benefit for the region.

    Among multiple errors and omissions, FSA’s environmental assessment incorrectly defines the acreage of the C&H facility, does not take into account nearby sensitive areas such as the Mount Judea Elementary School, and ignores the consequences of liquid manure running through the porous karst geology of the Buffalo River region.

    In addition, the notice of FSA’s environmental assessment was never published in a local newspaper in the vicinity of Mount Judea, Arkansas and no public comments were received. The National Park Service (NPS) was not informed of FSA’s environmental review until February 2013 – two months after some $3.5 million in loans were already guaranteed by FSA and SBA to the C&H operation. In fact, in a subsequent letter to FSA, the Park Service proceeded to identify 45 problems with the environmental assessment and stated that it was “so woefully inadequate that it should immediately be rescinded.”

    “It is incredible that no one, most especially those of us who live in the Buffalo River watershed, was notified about an industrial-sized hog farm so close to the river until after C&H was guaranteed millions by the FSA and SBA,” said Jack Stewart, Buffalo River Watershed Alliance. “Considering the magnitude of the hog operation and the impacts to our health and the health of the Buffalo River, thousands of Arkansans would have fought the placement of this factory farm from the outset.”

    “Due to the tragic lack of appropriate public notice, I learned of the granting of a loan to C&H Hog Farms with the loan guarantee by FSA and SBA several months after the fact,” said Robert Cross, president of the Ozark Society. “I then read the EA in detail. In my many years in industry and academia I have never seen such irresponsibility and negligence in carrying out a task having so much importance to the primary stakeholdersundefinedthe American public. Although 600 pages long, it is all virtually meaningless and obviously prepared with the thought that there would be no review. I do have faith in the American justice system in that FSA and SBA will be called to account as a step to stopping the hog farm in the fragile ecosystem of the Buffalo National River.”


    A particularly glaring flaw in the environmental assessment is the hog facility’s Nutrient Management Plan (NMP), which contains significant errors, omissions and misrepresentations. C&H will dump additional phosphorus-laden hog waste onto fields that already have all, or more than, the phosphorus they need. Accordingly, if the hog facility proceeds, significant amounts of phosphorus will be available for runoff into groundwater, Big Creek and downstream to the Buffalo River, causing nuisance algae and significantly altering the ecology of the stream system. With this facility sitting atop extremely porous ground, the risk for contamination of the Buffalo River is exceptionally high, and this risk is at odds with the protections required for a national park.

    Despite the numerous problems overlooked in the environmental assessment’s NMP, in the absence of any public opposition a “Finding of No Significant Impact” (FONSI) was signed by the FSA on August 24, 2012. In December 2012, the FSA authorized loan guarantee assistance requested by Farm Credit Service of Western Arkansas on behalf of C&H for 90 percent of a $1,302,000 farm ownership loan. SBA guaranteed a separate farm ownership loan issued by Farm Credit to C&H in the amount of $2,318,136.

    “We believe that FSA and SBA violated both the National Environmental Policy Act and the Buffalo National River Enabling Act with their loan guarantees to C&H,” said Marianne Engelman Lado, an attorney with Earthjustice, a public interest law firm representing the groups. “FSA also egregiously violated their own regulations requiring local public notice and proceeded through its entire environmental review and decision-making process with absolutely zero public input.”

    In sum, Emily Jones at National Parks Conservation Association said, “The complete lack of public input to date, the inadequacy of the environmental review, and the severity of the potential environmental impact to Arkansas’ signature outdoor tourist attraction, make it imperative for the USDA to take corrective action and revise the environmental assessment and the decision to issue a loan guarantee to C&H Hog Farms.”

    Earthjustice, Earthrise and local attorney Hank Bates are representing the Arkansas Canoe Club, Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, National Parks Conservation Association, and The Ozark Society in sending the letter to the USDA and SBA.

     

    Source: earthjustice.org

  • 06 Jun 2013 3:50 PM | Anonymous
    BRWA and its coalition partners issued a demand letter to FSA and SBA. The letter is intended to notify USDA and SBA that unless acceptable solutions are implemented by July 8, 2013, the groups will be forced to seek compliance with the law in court.  

  • 05 Jun 2013 11:02 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Harrison Daily Times

    Geologist wants hog farm suspended, writes letter to ADEQ

    Posted: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 2:30 am
    Staff Report dailytimes@harrisondaily.com | 0 comments

    A group opposed to C & H Hog Farms at Mt. Judea has shared a letter from an Arkansas scientist to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality calling for the farm’s permit to be suspended until his concerns are investigated.


    A spokesman for the National Parks Conservation Association said the scientist’s concerns are aligned with the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, Arkansas Canoe Club and the Ozark Society over the lack of study of groundwater on and near the site; the lack of discussion of the karst hydrogeology present in the region; and the lack of public notice provided, along with various other issues.
    The spokesman was referencing a letter by University of Arkansas professor John Van Brahana, a hydrologist and Certified Professional Geologist
    His letter to the ADEQ states: “Although many of the regulations of the NOI appear to have been met (exceptions include the letter from Hank Bates of Carney Bates & Pulliam PLLC), the heart of the regulations undefined the questions of nutrient loading and waste leakage undefined are weak and incomplete and do not give confidence that the NOI plans are adequate for preserving environmental quality. My personal perception is that this document does not satisfy the requirements.
    “Coupled with what was perceived as an air of secrecy and a less-than-obvious need for rapid or immediate action, the response of ADEQ in dealing with this project has reinforced the overall feeling that the proposed C & H Hog Farms is a highly risky water-quality endeavor in a fragile, lovely location. Subsequent actions have done little to alleviate those fears. Without addressing these omissions, I, too, have serious reservations.”
    Brahana notes that the hog farm is located in an area of karst geologic conditions.
    The National Parks Conservation Association spokesman said Brahana plans to propose a research program to assess the water quality of the region, conduct dye-tracing studies to document the point-to-point connections; and map all known karst features from upstream of the farm, down the valley of Big Creek, and below the confluence with Buffalo National River.
    He also called for a more transparent and open process about permitting operations for projects similar to the factory hog farm.
    Little Rock attorney Hank Bates sent a letter in May to ADEQ director Teresa Marks challenging the factory farm’s permit based upon the Nutrient Management Plan.
    Earlier in May, the National Parks Conservation Association, Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, Arkansas Canoe Club and The Ozark Society filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Department of Agriculture over its multi-million dollar loan guarantee to the factory farm, as their actions may have violated the Endangered Species Act.
  • 04 Jun 2013 9:15 AM | Anonymous
    Karst Hydrologist John Van Brahana requests suspension of the C&H Hog Farm permit stating no experienced Karst geologist would recommend a CAFO on this site. Document
  • 04 Jun 2013 6:38 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
     Subject: Arkansas Democrat June 1 letters re C & H Hog Farm

    Letter #1) We could all benefit
    The hog farm near the Buffalo River has opponents and proponents. Perhaps each side can win. We can have our bacon, ribs, etc., and another products from hogs along with a clean Buffalo River.

    I suggest drying the manure, bagging it, selling it nationwide, or worldwide, as fertilizer and potting soil. And believe me, this could be done at a nice profit.

    Cargill and the producers have enough financial backing to support such an operation. And perhaps some small company such as Wal-Mart would make a great distributor.

    Seriously, problem solved? For everybody?

    JOHN WHITTEN

    Rogers

    *************************************

    Letter #2) Some changes needed
    Does Arkansas need an agency to protect our environmental quality? I had thought that was the job of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality. But how then did we get a permitted 6,500-swine farm, built on the most porous rock terrain in the state (the Boone Limestone), where sewage will be stored in open lagoons until it can be spread on fields less than a mile upwind of a school, and where runoff and seepage through the porous rock may pollute wells, endangered bat caves, and even the country’s first national river.

    The department says the C&H farmers followed the proper application procedure for their permit. Therefore, without local public notification, comment period or public input, a permit was granted. And this is in accordance with the department’s own statewide rules for permitting contained animal feeding operations.

    How did these rules evolve? Has there been pressure from outside the agency? Could the Department of Environmental Quality have allowed giant agribusiness to foist these rules on them? Has it lost its power to protect our natural resources and human habitat?

    Statewide permitting without local input is bound to meet the unexpected-karst topography, endangered species, an adjacent school, or even a national river. Arkansas’ natural resources and human habitat need better protection. Arkansas needs a change in laws, a better permitting system, and an agency with the power and courage to protect our resources and the quality of our environment.

    PAMELA E. STEWART

    Jasper

    Note- "Pamela" is better known to most of us as "Pam" Stewart and is married to Jack Stewart

    *************************************

    Letter #3) Do something, stop it
    See the Buffalo River hog farmer with his hand on the sow in the pipe-framed enclosure? That is not a chute and she is not on her way to somewhere else.

    That is a containment crate and she is going to live almost all her life in it (four or five years). She cannot turn around or even really lie down. She will never see the sun or wallow in mud or even walk on green grass.

    These are not pork production units. These are God’s creatures.

    For the love of God, good people, do something to stop this!

    J.E. CALDWELL

    Stuttgart
  • 02 Jun 2013 3:32 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    ADEQ: CAFO Permit Is Just Fine

    Agency: Permit is fine

    Mike Masterson



    In his recent letter to Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality Director Teresa Marks, Little Rock attorney Hank Bates claimed the nutrient management plan for C&H Hog Farms of Mount Judea revealed the crucial document contained “omissions, errors and misrepresentations” that warranted revocation of the farm’s operating permit.
    I’d say Marks’ response (which declined to revoke the permit) contained a surprising number of its own “omissions, errors and misrepresentations.” Bates says Marks didn’t adequately address the specific issues he’d raised, specifically about phosphorus contamination from mountains of hog waste and previous flooding of some application fields.
    Their exchange in the resulting news account by reporter Ryan Mc-Geeney was too lengthy to tackle in fewer than 1,000 words.
    Bates summarized the response as nonresponsive. “For the most part, their letter doesn’t say anything, refutes nothing, ignores many of the issues we raised, and obliquely references others. For example, despite the regulations and prior public statements, it appears ADEQ really doesn’t care whether the permit applicant uses phosphorus or nitrogen in the analysis. ADEQ also misses the fundamental pointundefinedthe four fields with ‘N/A’ spread across the calculation tables are the fields where the analysis improperly switched from phosphorus to nitrogen.”
    He added that the agency’s response “inspires little to no confidence that the agency will be enforcing the permit and protecting the Buffalo River as this factory farm ramps up operations … ADEQ feels it has no requirement to follow any guideline and is asserting their own guidelines and Arkansas law means nothing.”
    I can understand Bates’ frustrations, especially considering that Marks has acknowledged she didn’t realize her own department had approved the operating permit for this farm until after it had been done by lower-level staff.
    After reading of Marks’ response and refusal to revoke the permit, I was left with several impressions: It seemed from the wording and admitted errors contained in the permitting process, this was perhaps the first time they’d carefully reviewed that document. Secondly, there appears to be an inexplicable disconnect in the agency differentiating between phosphorus and nitrogen applications. Why?
    Thirdly, my impression of Marks’ response could be boiled down to: We don’t give a thin slice of crispy bacon what the thousands concerned about potentially polluting the Buffalo National River say about how we handled or mishandled the hog contained animal feeding operation permit. Our responsibility is a done deal where we are concerned. All you taxpaying, voting citizens can learn to live with the conscientious job we are doing to protect the environmental quality of the natural state.
    Were I Marks, after so many exposed shortcomings within her department, I’d already have resigned and probably found a job in the legal department of corporate agriculture. But, hey, that’s just me.
    Many can’t believe this could even happen, and with the permission of our state. A family hog farm with a few hundred swine is one thing. But 2,500 sows and 4,000 offspring is like comparing a lizard to a brontosaurus with an entirely new level of potentially devastating risks to a magnificent state treasure.
    So my curiosity naturally was roused by both the state and federal governments’ roles in approving this monumentally bad idea without a single public hearing held in Jasper, the Newton County seat, or nearby Harrison (where the Farm Service Agency and National Park Service offices share the same building). Why not? After all, this farm was being proposed in the backyard of those most immediately affected.
    Now, instead of emerging from such meetings when the farm was proposed, public debate is occurring weeks after the first hogs from supporter Cargill Inc. arrived. The relative silence from the system certainly worked out to more than effectively paving the way for this particular farm.
    As a consequence, our state’s permit approval, and even a loan guaranteed by taxpayers through the Farm Service Agency, has understandably roused thousands in Arkansas and across the nation.
    I was born in Harrison, several miles from the Buffalo National River. I grew up enjoying its striking beauty. And as much as my concern is that this magnificent gift not be put needlessly at risk for contamination from leaking or overflowing hog waste, I’ve become equally interested in how our governments came to award such kindly approval to this farm seemingly from its conception.
    It has felt as if state and federal agencies, rather than serving as true gatekeepers of our state’s precious treasure, turned cartwheels to make sure this CAFO was approved right where it is.
    And I naturally wonder why Cargill, the international food supplier and processor, would risk good will and reputation over what’s bound to be just another of its many hog CAFOs. Aren’t there plenty of other better-suited areas even in Arkansas where this many hogs can be raised without raising fears over the God-awful hog waste contaminations that other states have suffered?
     
    Mike Masterson’s column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at mikemasterson10@hotmail.com. Read his blog at mikemastersonsmessenger.com.

  • 26 May 2013 5:50 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Grassy greeting

    Weeding out dissent

    Mike Masterson


    Scores of visiting demonstrators were welcomed to the town of Jasper last week by constant noise and debris tossed from a weed-trimmer and lawnmower after they’d peacefully convened on the grassy Newton County courthouse square. They’d come to make their voices heard as international corporation Cargill Inc. entertained legislators with a lunch across the street at the popular Ozark Cafe.
    The startled visitors, who shielded their faces from the flying refuse, had come from as far away as Missouri to display signs and chant. They opposed Cargill’s backing of C&H Hog Farms in the nearby community of Mount Judea and the risk that industrial farm poses to the purity of the Buffalo National River.
    A half-dozen uniformed county deputies watched from across the street as this gathering of middle-aged folks peaceably milled on the side of the courthouse where two county workers suddenly showed up at noon to repeatedly mow the same relatively small area over the entire lunch hour.
    It appeared to me that both workers clearly had been instructed to do what they were doing and to summon the police if anyone dared object, which is just what the 6-foot-five, 300-pound weed-trimming employee did as soon as a man asked if he’d please consider doing his work there later. His retort: “You’re interfering with my work!” Then he called the deputies across the street on his cell phone.
    Good grief. Really?
    When deputies strolled over, the officers wound up shaking their heads and soon returned to the cafe. It was obvious that no county worker had been threatened or even interfered with.
    Meanwhile, the remaining three sides of the grassy square went unmown during the length of the demonstration.
    It was plenty apparent to those who’d come to express their feelings about Cargill’s role in the factory hog farm and the corporation’s hosted lunch for lawmakers that this display of noise and potentially dangerous flying sticks was calculated. I wonder who’d have been liable had someone lost an eye.
    While hungry lawmakers filed in and out for the Cargill’s lunch, I was surprised to learn not one walked across the street to speak with those in the crowd.
    Oh well, hey, it was a ham sandwich or a pork chop on Cargill, a float on the nearby pristine Buffalo and a tour of the new hog farm that didn’t yet stink to high heaven since it’s only been operational for a short time.
    I suggest holding another lawmakers’ tour and smell check in August 2014 after millions of gallons of waste are lapping in two lagoons and more waste has been amply spread across the fields surrounding Mount Judea and Big Creek.
    Those attending the protest carried signs that read: “Cargill Shame on You,” “Cargill Go Home” and “Hog farms Yes. Hog factories No.” Among the videotaped crowd was a prominent Newton County family concerned about polluting the river. Afterwards, the wife described her perspective.
    “I was part of the protest in Jasper in front of the Ozark Cafe while Cargill fed the state’s House and Senate Agriculture Committee members. We surely needed to let Cargill and others see some of the concern for the Buffalo National River. Many came early … and held very creative signs,” she said. “At one point I believe there were over 70. It felt good to get to be among others and chant … as [Cargill’s] guests filed into the cafe. We stood directly across the street in front of the Newton County Courthouse.
    “At 12 o’clock sharp, mowing and weed-eating was going on all around us. [My husband] went inside the courthouse to speak to the County Judge [Warren Campbell] about postponing yard work until later and expected to get to do so by phone, but the woman he talked with seemed to just disappear. The yard workers insisted their mowing needed to be done at this time!
    “One informed us he was a county employee and we could be guilty of obstructing their work,” she continued. “There was some risk for the bystanders who cooperated by moving. The mowers were old and didn’t have protective shrouds. No one was injured, though my son did feel something hit the side of his face from the weed-eater.
    “The worker who was weed-eating explained how they had to mow at that time because it was for the holiday [six days later] for the veterans and the flag and also it was shady on that side of the courthouse. Then he wanted to explain how safe CAFOs are and how Mount Judea is fine. He explained how he prefers to eat a CAFO pig instead of an outside pig who wallers about in everything. Those swine are just not clean in his opinion. He thinks the real problem is that some bathrooms are closed at the national park.”
    She concluded: “It’s disheartening when a local disdains this outpouring of concern and continues saying this [factory hog farm] won’t hurt the river. It’s obvious this CAFO is in the wrong place.”
    And as further evidence of just how divisive this CAFO near the Buffalo has become in Newton County, one former official at the demonstration told me that, as he was leaving, a local business person leaned over to him and said: “Thank you all for coming.”
     
    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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