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  • 12 Jul 2019 1:34 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Democrat Gazette


    Foreigners get large slice of pork aid

    by Nathan Owens | July 12, 2019 at 1:48 a.m.


    story.lead_photo.caption


    Some of the world's largest meat processors have won bids, worth tens of millions of dollars, from a federal program set up last year to help pork farmers stung by the ongoing trade war.


    JBS USA, a subsidiary owned by a Brazilian meatpacker, has been awarded the lion's share of the bids, while competitors Tyson Foods, Cargill and others have earned far less, according to bid award data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


    The Trade Mitigation Program, established after major trade partners China, Canada, Mexico and others began retaliating against the U.S. for tariffs placed on imports, were meant to offset harm to U.S. farmers and producers. Critics argue the companies obtaining most of the federal support are foreign-based and shouldn't be eligible for the program, even if the growers live in the U.S. However, industry veterans say the farmers will feel relief in the form of a trickle-down effect from the meatpacker.


    "It's a foreign-owned company and getting U.S. support payments. On the surface, it sounds a little non-kosher, if you will, but it's still U.S. product raised by U.S. producers," said Travis Justice, chief economist of the Arkansas Farm Bureau.


    Analysis of the data shows $300 million has been allocated to pork so far. It was first reported by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, a nonprofit newsroom.


    According to the results, JBS USA has won $78 million in pork contracts so far, followed by Goodman Foods and Lakeside Foods. Contracts from the program have gone to pork producers Tyson Foods, which received about $28 million; Cargill got $6 million; and Smithfield got $240,000.


    JBS USA got 26% of the allocated funds by leveraging its size and undercutting the competition. The world's largest meat producer bid an average of $2.56 per pound for 5-pound pork loin cuts, while competitors bid an average of $3.80 per pound, the Midwest Center reported.


    Last August, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue signed off on the mitigation program, which included direct payments to farmers, as well as $1.2 billion worth of crops grown by farmers that were targeted by trade partners. Of the list of commodities facing retaliatory tariffs, pork was hit hardest, resulting in $558 million of planned pork purchases.


    The hope is that taking supply off the market will raise pork prices and be beneficial to the farmer, said Chad Hart, an agricultural economist with Iowa State University.


    "It's been hard to tell what this program's done because it's caught up in the wash of African swine fever," Hart said. The disease, which kills almost all pigs infected, has ravaged swine herds in China.


    Looking at last summer's market prices, when the program was announced, he said today's prices are stronger.


    "This procurement is part of it, but I'd argue a relatively small part of it," Hart said.


    Others are concerned with how the money is being used. Nine U.S. senators sent a letter recently to Perdue urging him to stop making trade mitigation purchases from foreign-owned companies out of concern they won't benefit farmers. While the USDA allowed Smithfield, a company owned by the Chinese, to terminate its purchasing contract, the department also awarded a series of contracts to JBS and "has not established sufficient procedures to ensure that taxpayer-funded trade assistance for American farmers is not ultimately benefiting foreign companies," they said in the letter dated May 29.


    "There really needs to be an examination of how this program is being administered and who is getting these awards," said Tony Corbo, a senior lobbyist with Food & Water Watch, a corporate watchdog group.

    "The thing is, JBS is making money and they are not giving this back to the farmers," he said. "It's outrageous that a company that is not hurting is able to do this.”


    JBS also has a murky reputation. Aside from the owners' recent arrests and involvement in a corruption investigation, the company's U.S. beef operations were also fined $50,000 by the USDA for not accurately tracking weights, grades and prices for carcasses.


    "We used to argue about big versus small, now we are seeing more of a domestic versus international, and I think that's going to be part of the debate as we move forward," Hart said.


    Most of the nation's hog farmers are in the Midwest or along the East Coast. According to Justice, the few dozens left in Arkansas raise under contract for Tyson, Cargill or JBS USA. How the payments benefit farmers is through a sort of "trickle down" effect, Justice said.


    The trade mitigation payments help maintain contracts between the growers and companies, known as integrators, he said. In general, the integrators own the animals and feed and bear most of the processing costs that growers would otherwise have to face if they owned the animals.

    "I guess growers would benefit indirectly," Justice said about the USDA's trade payments.


    Business on 07/12/2019

  • 11 Jul 2019 12:43 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    American Rivers



    LOCAL ACTIVISTS CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE

    After six years, countless rallies, fundraisers, letter-writing campaigns, lawsuits and legal actions, visits to the capitol, miles of travel to hearings at agencies and the legislature, we finally got the news that the 6500-head hog confined feeding operation (CAFO) impacting the Buffalo National River would be closing.


    Jessie Thomas-Blate | July 11, 2019


    This guest blog by Lin Wellford is a part of our series on America’s Most Endangered Rivers®. The Buffalo National River was included in this report in 2017 and 2019. 


    The news is still sinking in.

    After six years, countless rallies, fundraisers, letter-writing campaigns, lawsuits and legal actions, visits to the capitol, miles of travel to hearings at agencies and the legislature, we finally got the news that the 6500-head hog confined feeding operation (CAFO) impacting the Buffalo National River would be closing.

    People told us it would never happen.

    They said once these kinds of facilities are permitted, you can never get rid of them.

    But here in Arkansas, the public refused to back down. 

    People who love the Buffalo River united in opposition to subjugating a national river to the abuse of industrial interests. A global corporation convinced three contract growers to get into large-scale hog raising in a rural area that just happened to be less than seven miles upstream of a major tributary to the Buffalo National River.

    Supporters of the CAFO, including the powerful voice of the Farm Bureau, claimed that the owner/operators had done nothing wrong, and that there was no proof that more than two million gallons of hog waste spread onto fields and other areas had anything to do with the rapid explosion of algal growth that was soon noticed by visitors. The CAFO, employing eight to ten locals, was soon threatening the livelihood of nearly one thousand neighbors whose businesses, restaurants and float services depended on the steady flow of visitors to a clean and beautiful Buffalo River. No one wants to paddle or swim in a waterway filled with green gook!

    Through working to save the river, we all learned some important lessons.

    After the Buffalo National River was first selected for the America’s Most Endangered Rivers® list in 2017, I looked at other waterways on the list and realized how many of them, like the Buffalo, are being damaged by the operations of industries who make money by cutting corners, by paying fines rather than correcting mistakes, or refusing to accept any responsibility. When industries pump their waste into rivers through pipes, it is easy to see where pollution is coming from. Now many industries create more elusive non-point source pollution, which is caused by runoff or infiltration into groundwater that then reaches waterways. Often citizens and non-profits are left to prove the industrial players are the ones causing damage.

    But I learned something else, too.

    Industries may have money to buy influence, but they can’t buy the votes or the passion of individuals who care about our waterways.  

    When people unite and speak out, when they begin contacting elected officials, writing letters to editors, and hosting meetings and getting loud about what’s happening, they can make things change. Maybe not all at once or as fast as they would like, but relentless passion and action is a force!

    We who love the Buffalo River are grateful to American Rivers. They helped to amplify the plight of our river, and their supporters from across the country got involved by responding to action alerts. Each voice raised added to the volume until a tipping point was reached.

    The governor got the message!

    Don’t be afraid to speak to your representatives at your state’s legislature.Industries have lobbyists working fulltime to influence lawmakers. However, keep in mind that decent lawmakers will listen to constituents who take the time to reach out to them, to keep them informed, and to build relationships and credibility. We were told by many state representatives and senators that they appreciated that we made the effort to meet with them and tell them the other side of the story.

    Most of all, don’t give up hope. 

    Supporters of the Buffalo National River thank everyone who helped us in any way. We are proof that David can take down Goliath.

    Please continue to care for our shared water resources. They are worthy of our efforts, even if it will be our grandchildren who reap the benefits.


    Lin WellfordLin Wellford


    Lin Wellford has made her home in the Ozarks for more than 40 years. A retired author/artist, she now devotes her talents to environmental issues and community causes.

     

     



  • 11 Jul 2019 9:19 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Arkansas Democrat Gazette


    Lien check on track, Arkansas governor tells panel; search a condition of hog-farm buyout


    by John Moritz 



    Gov. Asa Hutchinson assured legislative leaders in a letter this week that his office is checking for any liens on the Newton County hog farm where the state plans to spend $6.2 million for a conservation easement that would close the farm in the Buffalo River watershed.

    Concerns that an unknown lien on C&H Hog Farms could derail the state's efforts to buy out the farm's owners led lawmakers in June to request that such a check be conducted before state money is spent on the easement.


    The purchase of a conservation easement on the farm was announced by Hutchinson on June 13, as a proposed settlement to a long-running controversy about the farm's operation along a tributary that feeds into the Buffalo National River, one of the state's most emblematic tourist draws.

    Money for the easement is expected to come mostly out of the state's "rainy-day" fund, with additional funding provided by the private Nature Conservancy and grants.

    Based on the governor's assurances, the Legislative Council's co-chairmen -- Sen. Cecile Bledsoe, R-Rogers, and Rep. Jeff Wardlaw, R-Hermitage -- signed off on the transfer of up to $6.2 million in rainy-day funds.

    Hutchinson said none of the money will be spent until the state is given assurances that it has priority lien status on the property.

    "We are currently awaiting receipt of a title opinion," the governor said in his letter. "If there is not clear title, the funds will not be placed into the Escrow Account and the agreement will not be executed."

    J.R. Davis, a spokesman for the governor, said the opinion is being prepared by the First National Title Co., an Arkansas company.

    In their own letter to the governor's state budget director sent later Tuesday, both Bledsoe and Wardlaw asked for a full accounting of the amount of money spent on the easement by both state and private sources.

    According to Davis, the state is planning to spend $3.7 million from the total amount approved to be spent from the rainy-day fund. Another $1 million is expected to come from the Nature Conservancy, and $1.5 million will come from grants from the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council.

    In a phone call Wednesday, Wardlaw said the governor's letter "100% addresses" concerns that were raised by lawmakers during a June 21 meeting.

    "Our legal people at the [Bureau of Legislative Affairs] agree," Wardlaw said.

    Those concerns were raised by Sen. Jimmy Hickey, R-Texarkana, who said at the committee meeting that any outside liens that had priority over the state's easement could result in the state "throwing away" money dedicated to the project.

    Neither Hickey nor Bledsoe responded to requests for comment late Wednesday.

    The hog farm, owned by Jason Henson, Richard Campbell and Philip Campbell, opened in 2013 and has since drawn concerns from environmental groups over the possibility of hog manure leaking into the Buffalo River. While the river is on a state list of water bodies impaired by E. coli, no link has been found between the bacteria and C&H Farms.

    Information for this article was contributed by Michael R. Wickline of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

    Metro on 07/11/2019

  • 10 Jul 2019 3:53 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Buffalo River debacle


    All Arkansans owe columnist Mike Masterson a huge "thank you" for having kept up with and written about the various thrusts and parries resulting from the assault on the Buffalo River. Without his estimated 100 factual columns over the last six years, most of us would not have known how to help "save the river" again.


    Assuming that the director of the Department of Environmental Quality really did not know about the permit granted to the owners of C&H Hog Farms, have those employees who allowed this debacle been fired? If not, why not?


    SUZANNE V. HAMILTON

  • 10 Jul 2019 3:45 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    OPINION 

    LIN WELLFORD and TERESA TURK: Our river saved


    We can’t let this happen again by Lin Wellford and Teresa Turk Special to the Democrat-Gazette | Today at 1:47 a.m. 


    Thank you, Governor Hutchinson, for stepping up for your state and our national river. It took real courage and commitment to go against the standard political grain and stalwart Farm Bureau to hammer out an agreement to close C&H Hog Farms.


    As you noted in your announcement, this operation should never have been permitted in the first place. The original permit was flawed in numerous ways. The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality did not require nor review critical information that would have indicated this was just about the worst place in the state to locate a 2.5 million-gallon per year pollution-generating operation.


    Among their oversights were karst-laden geology subject to sinkholes, fractured underground channels, and shallow, porous fields allowing for rapid movement of waste and nutrients. Also flawed environmental assessments that were rushed in order to get the CAFO built before the public could learn of it, fraudulent land leases and forged signatures submitted by C&H to make it appear more acreage was available for manure spreading, and a nutrient management plan which included an unaccounted-for 80 percent loss of phosphorus when the actual amount, according to expert witnesses, is zero percent.


    The department should have caught these obvious problems and C&H should not have submitted inaccurate land leases nor hired a nutrient management planner who allegedly manipulated the numbers to make this operation appear environmentally acceptable under the Arkansas Phosphorus Index.


    That fact alone, without considering any leakage from the lagoons, means 80 percent more nutrients were applied to the watershed and accounts for the alarming growth of algae and pervasive blooms that made it obvious that something was very wrong with the river within just a few years' time.


    As farming has become industrialized and corporations have moved in, the scale of operations has changed dramatically, but the regulations placed on those operations have not changed. Old McDonald's Farm maintained a balance of nutrients produced and nutrients used. Growing thousands of large animals in enclosed buildings, importing feed from elsewhere and calling the waste produced "fertilizer" knocks the environment out of balance, contributing to the rapid decline in waterway health and to a growing dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.


    Farm Bureau claims to speak for American agriculture, but it is made up of paid lobbyists for corporate agriculture interests, leaving independent farmers to struggle. They may try to frame the closure of C&H as a "right to farm" issue, but it is actually a "right to harm" issue, where certain entities claim the right to damage shared resources for private profit, then stick the public with the bill for cleanup.


    This is personal for the thousands of people who enjoy floating, hiking and swimming in the Buffalo National River, and for the businesses which depend on those visitors for their living. It is personal for Arkansans who take pride in being the first in something good instead of last place by most standards. It is personal because we all need clean water to drink and recreate. Why should one "farm" be able to muck up the first national river designated to be enjoyed by all?


    A recent poll showed that 90 percent of Arkansans across the political spectrum want to preserve our healthy and beautiful water resources. Arkansas taxpayers are footing most of the bill to get C&H out of the watershed, and we will pay the price for years to come as excess nutrients continue to be flushed into the Buffalo River.


    If anything helped move this effort, it is the passion of Arkansas citizens to protect the river they love. To save our river, we had to pay off the polluter. Let's make sure this never happens again by refusing to reward future bad behavior. Let's ensure Arkansas has strong and transparent protective laws, as well as effective and enforced environmental regulations.


    Thank you, Governor Hutchinson, for taking back our river from the clutches of special interests!

  • 02 Jul 2019 7:41 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    Bill ending local CAFO control is a threat to waters


    This is a message to raise awareness, a "wake-up call" of sorts.


    Those of us listed below have come together as citizens to express our concerns about a little known action taken by the Missouri legislature in the final week of session regarding factory farms known as Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), and the authority of locally elected county officials, or "local control." We fear that the action presents a serious potential threat to water quality and quality of life in the Ozarks.


    We have all worked for and with water science and advocacy groups in leadership roles and are committed to keeping our Ozarks waters clean forever. Our purpose in sharing this message is to ensure that this threat does not go unnoticed.


    Let's begin with the bill, SB 391, that passed and the chilling effect it has on our ability to protect the Ozarks from corporate farms. It bans counties in Missouri from enacting regulations for corporate, often foreign-owned, farms that are more stringent than state regulations. The Missouri legislature has steadily diminished these laws over the past five years to encourage the expansion of factory farms.


    Counties in the Ozarks potentially impacted by this bill include Greene and Stone, which had previously passed county zoning ordinances, and Dade and Cedar, which had county health ordinances in place that prohibit or limit the size of CAFOs.


    Loss of local control removes the last line of defense for communities that do not want the stench, threats to water supplies and loss of property values that accompany such huge corporate operations.


    For those who may not know, CAFOs are large, open-air buildings or feedlots with cattle, hogs, turkeys or chickens jammed beak to tail feather or snout to bottom for fattening up. A CAFO is defined by the number of animals confined, with 1,000 or more cattle, 5,000-10,000 pigs and 35,000-40,000 chickens or turkeys as the norm.


    Their excrement ends up in open-air lagoons or underlying pits until it is sprayed on or injected into adjoining fields, or transferred for offsite application. Concentrated animal waste is particularly damaging in the Ozarks, where rain, runoff and seepage through shallow soils represent a clear and present danger to the unique Ozarks karst topography of springs, creeks, streams, lakes and water tables. Once a CAFO is permitted, it is not easy to limit its growth and environmental impact or get rid of it.


    Just ask our neighbors to the south along the Buffalo National River. In 2012, local families colluded with a major international conglomerate to place a 6,500-pig CAFO next to Big Creek, a major tributary of the Buffalo National River, just six miles from its confluence with the river. This facility was permitted by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality and continues to spew untreated waste into the Buffalo, despite refusal of the same agency to renew the permit last year. The dispute languishes in the court system and likely will for the foreseeable future.


    True family farming has been a valued and respected way of life in the Ozarks since its beginnings. There is no family farming going on here. It is an international meat factory that has caused the beautiful Buffalo River to become clogged with green algae.


    Since 2013, politicians in Jefferson City have steadily diluted regulation of CAFOs to attract their business from states that are becoming more vigilant in oversight. During that time period, construction permit requirements have been waived, and the need to demonstrate "continuing authority," or the ability of owners to provide evidence of financial viability to properly manage operations, has been eliminated.


    Perhaps most damaging, the Missouri Clean Water Commission, which issues CAFO permits, has been stacked with agricultural interests, thus crippling the last venue for citizen intervention in environmental destruction and corporate avarice beyond local control, which has now been stripped by legislators. What until recently was a requirement that four of seven commissioners be "independent" and representative of the general public has been legislated out of existence.


    If Missouri legislators wish to make our state into the largest hog-producing state in the nation, there is not much we can do beyond voting against them. But doesn't it seem a bit hypocritical that these same legislators who rail against too much government interference think it is fine for the state to override laws passed by local citizens to protect their own communities?


    And if a 6,500-pig confined animal feeding operation can suddenly appear along America's first national river in the heart of the Ozarks, the same could now happen in Dade, Cedar, Stone and even Greene counties with this new ban on local control.

    Our Ozarks landscapes and waters are particularly vulnerable and unsuited for CAFOs. We urge people of the Ozarks to make their voices heard. We will aggressively fight the expansion of large corporate farms into the fragile topography and bountiful waters of the Ozarks. We hope you will join us.


    Loring Bullard, retired director, Watershed Committee of the Ozarks

    Linda Chorice, retired manager, Springfield Conservation Nature Center

    Barbara Lucks, former sustainability officer, city of Springfield (retired), now in private consulting

    John Madras, retired director, Water Protection Program, Missouri Department of Natural Resources

    Todd Parnell, retired member and chairman of the Missouri Clean Water Commission

    Joe Pitts, retired director, James River Basin Partnership

    Barry Rowell, retired fire chief, city of Springfield

    Beth Siegfried, retired educator

    Tim Smith, retired Greene County and city of Springfield administration

    Terry Whaley, retired director, Ozarks Greenways

  • 02 Jul 2019 2:59 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    National Parks Traveler



    Arkansas To Buy Out Hog Farm Poised Upstream Of Buffalo National River 

    By Kurt Repanshek on July 2nd, 2019


    Streaming out of the Boston Mountains in northwestern Arkansas, the Buffalo River flows in an arc across the roof of the state, heading north before bending southeasterly, gaining speed as it pours out of the thickly forested and leafy landscape before slowing somewhat as it crosses the tabletop-like Salem and Springfield plateaus.

    This rumpled landscape historically was home to the Cherokee, who were forced out in 1828, which opened the landscape to white settlers who began to poke small farmsteads into the forests of oak, pine, and cedar.

    For those who settled here, and on up until today, the Buffalo has been a lifeblood and thread through daily life. There was a time in the 1940s and 1950s when proposals to dam the river arose, and it was only the intervention of the National Park Service late in the ‘50s that put those plans to rest.

    At the time, the Park Service believed “(T)he Buffalo deserves national attention not for any single quality but for an outstanding combination of qualities. The very base of the river’s appeal lies in its clean, flowing waters, which support a notable sports fishery and provide an opportunity for pleasurable boating and swimming. Its scenery is interesting and often spectacular. It is unspoiled by development and free of pollution.”

    By 1968, the Park Service envisioned the Buffalo as the nation’s first “national river,” a unit of the National Park System that would not only keep the river flowing pristine, but its surrounding mountains and the valley it flows through would “yield experiences of a kind and quality that are becoming all too rare in urbanized America.”

    Though the Buffalo did become the first national river in 1972, a century after Yellowstone became the world’s first national park, the fact that it encompasses just 11 percent of the entire 1,338-square-mile river basin has led to threats to the Park Service’s intent to “insure sound land use to prevent pollution and scenic damage and to encourage economic farm units on the best agricultural lands.”

    Park Service planners knew from the start there could be problems, pointing out that the national river’s boundaries were downhill from “89 percent of the drainage basin.” In other words, any pollution generated up above stood a good chance of eventually flowing into the river down below. Greatly increasing that likelihood is the region’s porous karst geology. This type of formation is composed of easily dissolved rocks, such as limestone and dolomite. Via sinkholes and caves, groundwater – and any pollution it carries -- can flow miles very quickly.

    For the past six years a CAFO -- concentrated animal feeding operation -- has been operated about six miles upstream of the river, near Big Creek, a tributary of the Buffalo. The C&H Hog Farms operation confines about 6,500 pigs at a time. Long-running legal battles waged by river advocacy groups have tried to shut down the operation, and late this spring the battles were before the Arkansas Supreme Court.

    Now, though, the state of Arkansas has stepped in to shut down the operation by buying out the owners with $6.2 million from the state's rainy day fund to obtain a conservation easement on the land. The move follows an earlier decision by state officials to place a moratorium on other CAFOs in the Buffalo River watershed "due to the historical, cultural, and recreational significance" of the country's first national river.

    Since the moratorium came after C&H had begun operations, it wasn't affected by the ban. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson was expected Tuesday to formally announce the shutdown plan. Under it, the state Department of Environmental Quality was to take responsibility for closing down the pig farm and removing the liquid animal wastes stored on the grounds.





  • 01 Jul 2019 5:35 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Newton County Times



    Hog farm deal tied

    By JAMES L. WHITE jamesw@harrisondaily.com 

    • Jul 1, 2019

    The Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission on Friday approved the settlement for the conservation easement on the property that is currently C&H Hog Farm near Mt. Judea.

    On June 13, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced that the state had entered into an agreement with hog farm owners Jason Henson, Phillip Campbell and Richard Campbell to cease the concentrated animal feeding operation, or CAFO.

    The agreement grants an easement of the 23.34 acres on which the hog farm stands to the Heritage Commission as a way to protect the Buffalo National River. The hog farm is near Big Creek, which is a tributary of the Buffalo six miles away.


    The state agreed to pay hog farm owners $6.2 million in compensation for the easement.

    Melissa Whitfield, communications director with the Department of Arkansas Heritage, said the funds will be a blend of money from the governor’s rainy-day fund, the Nature Conservancy and grant funds received by the Department of Arkansas Heritage from the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council.

    In a conference call Friday morning, Heritage Commission director Bill Hollimon asked commissioners for preliminary approval of the easement first, then final approval if they chose.


    Holliman said the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality will oversee closure and clean-up of the hog farm. The owners will have up to 180 days to close the farm and move or liquidate all current stock.

    Heritage Commission deputy director Jim Andrews, who also serves as commission legal counsel, answered commissioners’ questions.

    Andrews explained that ADEQ is still formulating the formal clean-up process. He said the remaining hog waste could be applied to land as fertilizer, although that wasn’t very palatable to the agency. It could also be hauled away and incinerated or treated at an approved facility.


    Andrews said that process could take two years to finalize the clean-up and the agency will bear the expense, not the landowners.

    When asked about the payment to the hog farm owners, Andrews said the funds would first go into escrow to satisfy the $2.4 million in Farm Credit loans on the farm. The remainder would go to the owners, but the owners’ accountants have estimated fair market value between $10 million and $12 million. As such, any amount over the $6.2 million would be tax deductible.

    “But there would be no cost to the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission,” Hollimon added.


    Commissioners unanimously passed both the preliminary and final approval.

    Andrews said the governor had already approved the agreement, but officials are now waiting for the money to be appropriated by the legislative council to fund escrow. That will be the trigger that makes closure begin.

    The final payment to the owners will be made when the easement is delivered to the Heritage Commission. It will not be designated a natural area and there will be no public access, Andrews said. The owners will still retain ownership, but the agreement said use will be restricted to:

    • Free-Range livestock, excluding swine, except that livestock must not be confined for more than 45 days during any 12-month period with no more than two animal units per acre. Large animals (cows, horses, etc.) count as one animal unit, medium animals (sheep, goats, etc.) count as 0.5 animal unit, and smaller animals such as fowl will count as 0.1 animal units.

    • Forestry.

    • Recreational activities.

    • Single-family dwelling.

    • Agricultural land management activities.

    • Cultivation of crop normally found in the area.

    • Other uses that are not prohibited in the agreement.

    • Any use authorized by the grantee.

    The Heritage Commission will retain the right to monitor land use annually. Andrews explained that would entail driving past the property to ensure no CAFO is in use, but given the amount of attention paid to the hog farm in the past, there will likely be many people watching for potential violations.

    The governor had earlier ordered that a temporary moratorium on CAFO permits issued in the Buffalo National River watershed be made permanent. Andrews said that means the grandfathered status of C&H’s permit, which was issued prior to the temporary moratorium, would be removed and no more CAFO permits would be allowed.

  • 30 Jun 2019 1:48 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Democrat Gazette


     OPINION

    REX NELSON: State of the stateby Rex Nelson 

    | June 30, 2019 at 2:01 a.m.


    I've arrived early for my speaking engagement at Fordyce Rotary Club, so I decide to head downtown and walk around. While reading the timeline of local history behind Dallas County Museum, I think about how the Dallas County seat finds itself in the same position as many small towns across Arkansas.


    Two years ago this month, I left a position in the corporate world to return to full-time journalism after 21 years away. My mission is this: Travel the highways and county roads of Arkansas and find stories that might interest our readers. Seek out not only the places that might soon be gone, but also find people who are overcoming the odds to make their communities better.


    This isn't a column based purely on nostalgia. It isn't a travelogue. My hope is that over time it will give regular readers a chance to learn about areas of the state they rarely visit while also getting a sense of where Arkansas has been in the 200 years since it became a territory, where it is today and where it is headed.


    What have I learned during these two years on the road?


    I've learned that this is a state undergoing rapid urbanization. There's no bigger story in Arkansas right now. Following the 2010 census, I wrote about how Arkansas had become two states within a state with 39 counties gaining population and 36 counties losing population from 2000 to 2010.


    When the figures from the 2020 census come out, we'll see that Arkansas gained population during the previous decade. But I can already tell you that even though the state as a whole will have grown, a majority of Arkansas counties will have lost population. I believe 45 or more of the 75 counties will record a loss during the decade.


    There are only three strong growth areas in Arkansas now--the northwest corner, the Jonesboro-to-Paragould corridor, and the counties surrounding Little Rock. In most other areas, towns that are simply holding their own from a population standpoint can declare victory.


    Some of the statistics are sobering.


    In the Delta from 2012-17, Phillips County lost 10 percent of its population, Lee County lost 9.9 percent, Monroe County lost 9.8 percent, and Jefferson, Mississippi and Chicot counties lost 7.4 percent. Almost all the other Delta counties also lost residents.


    In the pine belt of south Arkansas during the same period, Lafayette County lost 7.9 percent, Dallas County lost 7 percent, Nevada County lost 6.5 percent and Ouachita County lost 6 percent.


    The biggest winners as far as population gains during that five-year period were Benton County at 14 percent, Washington County at 9.8 percent, Craighead County at 7.3 percent, Saline County at 7.2 percent, Madison County at 4.8 percent, Faulkner County at 4.4 percent, Greene County at 4.3 percent and Lonoke County at 4.1 percent.


    I don't foresee significant changes in those trends in the years ahead. Outside of the high-growth areas, the towns that hold their own or grow a bit will tend to be those with four-year institutions of higher learning. Think Arkadelphia, Magnolia, Monticello, Russellville, Searcy, Batesville and Clarksville.


    I predict continued strong growth in northwest Arkansas (I just spent a weekend in Bentonville, and what's happening there on the business, dining and cultural fronts amazes me), in the Jonesboro area and in central Arkansas. It should be noted that Arkansas gained population overall last year (at a time when the neighboring states of Louisiana and Mississippi were losing population) as growth in those three areas more than offset losses elsewhere.


    For Arkansas to achieve its potential as a state (especially given the inevitability of continued rural population losses), several things must happen in addition to continued growth in these three areas:


    • Though the Little Rock metropolitan area has been gaining population, the capital city itself has been stagnant for a decade. That must change. Given the energy of a young mayor and a new generation of leaders, I'm optimistic if they'll focus on the right things. Those include improving schools (these young leaders must realize that charter schools and private schools are important parts of that equation), reducing the crime rate and picking up the pace of downtown development. If Little Rock makes progress in those areas, private capital investments will flow into the city.


    • Pine Bluff must turn itself around. Jonesboro is booming as the regional center for northeast Arkansas. It's time for Pine Bluff to again become the regional center for southeast Arkansas. There are a few positive things finally happening. There's $20 million of construction spending downtown with an aquatics center and library being completed. The Quapaw will spend almost $300 million on their casino resort and hire more than 1,000 employees. Developers continue to raise funds for a renovation of the Hotel Pines along with the development of a downtown entertainment district.


    • Hot Springs must continue its focus on revitalizing downtown while tapping into the wealthy Dallas-Fort Worth market for visitors. Progress has occurred, but major buildings--Medical Arts, Dugan-Stewart, Velda Rose, Wade, DeSoto-Howe--remain empty. Tourism is Arkansas' No. 2 industry, and Hot Springs is the state's top draw. It's essential that the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, instead of just chasing manufacturers, use its resources to recruit developers for these buildings and for the empty site that once housed the Majestic Hotel. It's also crucial that the planned renovation of the Arlington Hotel go forward.


    Though rural Arkansas will continue to lose population, agriculture and forestry remain the state's No. 1 industry. That land is valuable from an economic standpoint. It's also valuable from a quality-of-life standpoint, especially in a place that calls itself the Natural State. Arkansas' natural beauty will attract talented, well-educated people if we'll do the following four things:


    • Focus on keeping the state's streams as pristine as possible. The recent battle over a hog farm in the Buffalo River watershed refocused the public's attention on the importance of Arkansas' rivers and creeks. The Arkansas Game & Fish Commission has a program called Stream Teams in which groups adopt streams and work to keep them clean. Now is the time to make this program the best of its type in the country.


    • Take the Game and Fish Commission's efforts to restore quail habitat to the next level. Habitat that's good for quail is also good for songbirds, small mammals and butterflies.


    • Return marginal farmland to hardwood forests in the Arkansas Delta. Back when soybean prices were high in the 1970s, we cleared far too much land. It's time to plant trees again.


    • Add dozens of chapters to the Keep Arkansas Beautiful initiative. Let's have the top program in America for keeping roadways free of trash. We live in one of the most beautiful states in the country. There's something that I can't help but notice when I'm on the road: We sure do like to trash it up. It makes me sad.

    ------------v------------

    Rex Nelson is a senior editor at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

    Editorial on 06/30/2019

     

  • 26 Jun 2019 3:52 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Eureka Springs Independent



    Editorial: Payout is great for polluting the Buffalo

    By

     Becky Gillette

     - 

    June 26, 2019

     

    Recent news that the State of Arkansas had reached a settlement to pay the owners of C&H Farms $6.2 million to shut down the confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) allowed to house up to 6,503 hogs was largely met with jubilation. This was after years of legal action and activism led by the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance because of concerns that hog waste in lagoons and spread onto surrounding farm lands in the leaky karst terrain was resulting in pollution harmful to the Buffalo National River.

    The CAFO received permits from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality in 2012 under a cover of darkness. The public didn’t know about the facility until it was already under construction.

    At the present time, spray fields surrounding the facility are above recommended levels for phosphorus, a nutrient that can cause excess algae blooms that harm water quality and aquatic life. People who treasure the Buffalo National River had been concerned about seeing more algae blooms the longer the CAFO was in operation. In addition to water pollution, few things smell worse than hog manure – particularly from thousands of hogs in a small area.

    But the settlement also raises questions. First is the secrecy surrounding the deal. There was no public input into the use of taxpayer money to buy out the owners of C&H Farms, or terms of the settlement. While The Nature Conservancy had pledged to help with funding up to $1 million, most of the money comes from the taxpayers.

    Litigation to close the facility could have gone on for years without the issue being resolved. But the nature of the settlement also raised concerns. As one river supporter put it, “The problem is what got us into this mess was what got us out of it. Political backroom deals.”

    Did bad behavior pay? You could say C&H Farms not only got away with polluting the Buffalo River Watershed for years, but they won the lottery on the way out. Were the farm owners made millionaires off the deal? According to the National Parks and Conservation Association, the C&H facility received more than $3.4 million in loan guarantee assistance from the federal government in 2012. One assumes that had been paid down considerably in the past seven years. So, what were the additional millions for?

    The three owners retain ownership but will put it in a conservation easement. Will that also be worth a considerable amount in tax credits?

    The many people who dug deep into their pockets to fund the legal challenges to the hog factory are certainly not getting reimbursed. In addition to the settlement, taxpayers had already paid several million for studies done by the Big Creek Research and Extension Team. Taxpayers are the ones taking the hit for consistently ill-conceived, ill-advised actions and decisions.

    Some concerns that have been raised by advocates for the Buffalo River watershed include:

    1. C&H has been exonerated instead of being held accountable for its pollution harming the number one tourist attraction in Arkansas.
    2. The agreement appears to circumvent the formal claims process as outlined in Arkansas Code, which requires ADEQ to admit liability.
    3. Who will be responsible for any pollution related to possible contamination from seepage/leakage from facility to wells, springs, tributaries, and waters of the State?
    4. Why are only large CAFOs reportedly excluded from the state’s moratorium on siting large CAFOs from the Buffalo River watershed? Another small or medium CAFO could apply for a permit in the same area.
    5. Could CAFO operators who are permitted under current regulations in other watersheds use this same kind of deal to extract funds from the state?
    6. Does closure of C&H and termination of permits let C&H off the hook if any endangered species have been adversely affected by C&H’s operation?
    7. C&H gets to continue to use the land for agricultural purposes, free-range livestock, forestry and single-family dwellings.
    8. Does C&H have plans to apply for a permit in another watershed? Should those who live in other watersheds worry?

    A recent Facebook post said those who live in other watersheds should definitely worry. “Where will the next CAFO pop up? To a river community of less importance where they can get away with whatever they please? Man, with little to no regulation, we should all start a CAFO. The payout is great.”

    Becky Gillette


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