Buffalo River 


  • 14 Jun 2019 8:58 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Democrat Gazette

    C&H Hog Farms takes state buyout; $6.2M deal cut to preserve Buffalo Riverby Emily Walkenhorst 

    C&H Hog Farms, the subject of yearslong environmental concerns, will close its doors later this year under a $6.2 million buyout agreement reached with Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Department of Arkansas Heritage Director Stacy Hurst.

    The large-scale hog farm that sits within the watershed of the Buffalo National River has 180 days from Thursday to cease operations. After that, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality will begin closing the site, including the hog manure ponds and any cleanup that may be necessary.

    The land will be given to the state as a conservation easement, which will limit its future usage.

    Shortly after signing the agreement Thursday morning, Hutchinson announced the news at the Arkansas Municipal League's luncheon, where he was scheduled to deliver a speech. 

    The announcement drew applause across the Statehouse Convention Center's ballroom in downtown Little Rock.

    "Let me emphasize that the farmers -- Jason Henson, Richard Campbell and Philip Campbell -- obtained the permit fairly and have operated the hog farm with the utmost care from the beginning," Hutchinson said. "They have not done anything wrong, but the state should never have granted that permit for a large-scale hog farm operation in the Buffalo River watershed."

    The Department of Arkansas Heritage has a statutory responsibility "to protect the rivers and streams of Arkansas," Hurst said in a statement sent to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The agreement "will ensure that this national treasure receives the protection that it deserves," the statement reads.

    C&H Hog Farms has been in operation since 2013 and has faced push-back ever since from environmental groups concerned about hog manure ending up in the Buffalo River, the first river in the United States to be designated as a national river. The facility is located on Big Creek, 6.6 miles from where it flows into the Buffalo.

    The creek and river are on the department's proposed list of impaired water bodies for E. coli, but no government agency has concluded C&H is responsible for the bacteria's presence.

    The state, with help from The Nature Conservancy, will pay the farmers $6.2 million in exchange for the closure. Most of that will be public money.

    Hutchinson spokesman J.R. Davis said the amounts haven't been finalized because the governor is waiting to hear from The Nature Conservancy about how much it will raise. The Department of Arkansas Heritage may provide funds, and the rest of the state's money would come from Hutchinson's discretionary fund.

    Hutchinson said The Nature Conservancy will not pay more than $1 million toward the buyout and will likely pay closer to $600,000 or so.

    Per the agreement, the compensation will cover the remaining balance on a multimillion-dollar loan and compensate the farmers for additional costs related to the closure, such as losses from cutting their contract with JBS Pork short and the remaining life of equipment purchased for the farm's operation.

    "We would like to thank all of those who have supported us through these difficult times defending our right to farm," Jason Henson wrote in a statement sent via text message to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. "We also thank the Governor, whose leadership has been instrumental. The time has come to resolve this matter and the terms of this agreement, financial settlement, and grant of a conservation easement present a good solution for everyone."

    Hutchinson also said a temporary ban on new medium- and large-scale hog farms in the watershed should be made permanent. He has directed Department of Environmental Quality Director Becky Keogh to start the rule-making process to make the language permanent.

    The department ordered the facility, which houses to up to 6,503 hogs, to close in November, citing water quality concerns and insufficient geological investigations of the rough karst terrain in which the farm sits.

    C&H subsequently filed a number of appeals of the department's actions and of subsequent actions taken by the department's appellate body, the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology.

    "This has been the source of constant controversy and litigation since the beginning," Hutchinson said. "It has always been my highest priority to protect the Buffalo River and ensure it as a national treasure far into the future."

    The cost and expected duration of all filed and anticipated appeals was not ideal, the governor said.

    "That's not a good outcome, and that doesn't protect the river," which made the buyout the state's best option, Hutchinson said after his speech.

    Hutchinson initially offered the farmers less than $6.2 million. When the farmers said they needed more to cover their losses, he called Scott Simon of The Nature Conservancy.

    Simon reached out to businessmen and donors to gauge their interest in supporting the buyout, The Nature Conservancy spokesman Ginny Porter said. He got a positive response, giving the governor the money needed to pay the farmers.

    Simon was traveling Thursday but issued a statement to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette thanking Hutchinson and the Henson and Campbell families "for working with the State of Arkansas on a solution to a challenging situation."

    Rumors of a buyout have circulated since early 2018, said Gordon Watkins, president of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance. The alliance formed in 2013 to oppose C&H, and members have been active in pursuing legal means to shut down the facility and researching any effects it has on Big Creek and the Buffalo.

    Still, Watkins said, he wasn't expecting an announcement so soon.

    "We're extremely pleased that this has finally come to pass," he said. "We've been at this for six years. We were told at numerous occasions that we were tilting at windmills."

    Watkins supports the buyout and has previously stated his support for compensation for the farmers, should C&H be forced to close, because they obtained their permit legally.

    Watkins said he hopes that monitoring of the water quality in Big Creek and the nearest portions of the Buffalo continues, citing the potential for phosphorus buildup in the soil at C&H to release over time via rainwater runoff.

    On Friday, the alliance and the Arkansas Canoe Club filed a notice of intent to sue C&H in federal court for purported violations of the federal Clean Water Act, including seepage from manure ponds and the spread of hog manure as fertilizer on land in a flood plain.

    The notice states that the alliance would give C&H 60 days to address the alleged violations or it would sue.

    Watkins said he hadn't spoken to his attorney, Richard Mays, as of early Thursday afternoon but said that closure of the facility may qualify as addressing the alliance's claims.

    The Arkansas Farm Bureau released a statement to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in support of C&H.

    "This is a private, and personal, decision by the owners of C&H Hog Farm, which, no doubt, was based on what they felt is best for their future," reads the statement, sent by spokesman Steve Eddington. "Arkansas Farm Bureau's support for the owners of C&H has not wavered, and we wish them success in whatever endeavor they choose to pursue.

    "You cannot tell this story without emphasizing that C&H had no environmental violations during more than five years of operation. That critical point has sometimes been lost. This farm underwent exhaustive testing and evaluation, both by ADEQ and EPA, and there has been no credible scientific evidence that this farm caused harm to the Buffalo River. That fact cannot be overlooked."

    C&H was "one of the most productive swine producers in the region," according to the Farm Bureau.

    Several groups and individuals released statements Thursday in support of the buyout.

    "In my view, the initial approval of this large-scale operation near the sensitive Buffalo River watershed was ill-conceived," U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Ark., said in a statement. "It's my hope that all stakeholders have learned from this extended challenge. I look forward to collaborating with local residents, farmers, as well as state and federal conservation officials, in creating a healthy watershed environment. Protecting the pristine Buffalo River is essential to preserving the livelihoods of countless Arkansans in north central Arkansas."

    Everyone will benefit from the agreement, Arkansas Democratic Party Chairman Michael John Gray said in a statement.

    "While it is unfortunate that these farmers were ever put in this position, I am happy that Governor Hutchinson has followed a suggestion made by me and many other advocates to make these farmers whole and to preserve our national treasure," Gray said in the statement.

  • 14 Jun 2019 7:35 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Talk Business

    Hog farm near Buffalo River receiving $6.2 million to close

    by Steve Brawner (BRAWNERSTEVE@MAC.COM)

    C&H Hog Farms, the controversial facility located 6.6 miles from the Big Creek that flows into the Buffalo National River, will cease operations in return for $6.2 million as part of a voluntary agreement, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Thursday (June 13).

    In addition, Hutchinson said he was directing that a temporary moratorium on large-scale concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, in the Buffalo River watershed be made permanent.

    Speaking to the Arkansas Municipal League and to reporters afterwards, Hutchinson said the farmers will receive $6.2 million. They will still own the land under a conservation easement that will prohibit the construction of a CAFO there.

    Hutchinson said the money will help the farmers pay off a multi-million dollar loan and compensate them for the loss of their business.

    Most of the money will come from the state. Hutchinson said between $600,000 and $1 million will come from The Nature Conservancy. That amount will cover a shortfall between what the farmers wanted and what the state was offering. Under the agreement, once an escrow account is funded, C&H will have up to 180 days to fully shut down operations.

    Hutchinson said the owners “obtained the permit fairly and have operated the hog farm with the utmost care from the beginning. They have not done anything wrong. But the state should have never granted that permit for a large-scale hog operation in the Buffalo River Watershed.”

    Richard and Phillip Campbell and Jason Henson received a permit in 2012 allowing them to raise approximately 6,500 hogs. The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality rejected the farm’s application for a new operating permit in January 2018 and again in November, citing water-quality issues and inadequate testing. But the owners appealed in circuit court and filed a civil lawsuit.

    Opponents fear the farm’s waste is polluting the nation’s first national river.

    Hutchinson told reporters that the agreement had been negotiated over the past few days and signed this morning. He said he had decided to settle the case rather than wait for the legal process to unfold because of the expense, length and uncertainty of litigation, which would take years to resolve.

    “This step was logical both in terms of saving money in litigation costs, but also resolving it much quicker than litigation could,” he said.

    The agreement prohibits using any building on the property for “the feeding, breeding, raising or holding of animals” that is “specifically designed as a confinement area where manure may accumulate.”

    However, it authorizes activities such as soil cultivation and free-range livestock excluding swine. The animals can’t be confined or maintained on the property for more than 44 days a year. Only two “animal units” are allowed per acre, with large animals such as cows and horses counting as one unit, medium animals including sheep and goats counting as .5 animal units, and small animals including fowl counting as .1 animal units. Forestry is allowed, as are recreational activities and single family dwellings.

    The Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, which has long opposed the hog farm, said in an email sent to supporters, “This closure announcement is what we have all been seeking for 6 long years.” It said it would continue to monitor the closure process and said other threats to the river exist.

  • 13 Jun 2019 12:58 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Arkansas Times

    State strikes deal to remove hog farm from Buffalo River watershed


    Max Brantley

    On June 13, 2019

    Gov. Asa Hutchinson used an appearance before the Arkansas Municipal League today to announce that a deal had been struck to remove the C and H factory hog feeding operation from the Buffalo River watershed.

    The farmers will get $6.2 million, mostly public money but also from the Nature Conservancy, to take their hog waste away.

    The farm has been an enormous controversy since it was approved with little notice during the Beebe administration. The owners, with significant support from the Arkansas Farm Bureau, have resisted efforts to shut it down. Lawsuits and regulatory hearings have dragged on as environmentalists argued that the porous limestone geology beneath the concentrated animal feeding operation allowed hog waste to seep into the water table and that land application of waste had also contributed to runoff that was polluting a nearby stream that feeds into the Buffalo National River, a prime tourist attraction. Coincidentally or not, the river has been marred recently by heavy algae growth.

    The deal will include a payment, including state money, to the farm operators, who were under contract to supply pork to one of the world’s largest protein producers, JBSBrazil.  The state will get a conservation easement that ends a hog feeding operation on the farm at Mount Judea in Newton County.

    The operators, while suing to get a permit for continued operation, had also been investigating other potential sites. One in Franklin County was recently imperiled by the Arkansas River flooding, but a spokesman for Arkansas Pork Producers told me then that an effort to get a permit for a hog farm there had been withdrawn. The agreement today makes no mention of future plans by the hog farmers.

    In the recent legislative session, the Farm Bureau narrowly failed in a push to remove hog farm regulation from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality and move it to an agency where local farmers have strong influence and without less scientific expertise. The governor had urged a delay in that legislation after it passed the Senate. It was pulled down after it ran into House opposition.

    Opponents had developed a scathing attack on the hog triangle created by the farm: The farm sends dollars to Brazil (JBS); JBS sends pork chops to China, the farm sends hog manure to the Buffalo River.

    It’s a big win for the governor.

  • 12 Jun 2019 1:44 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Springfield News-Leader


    Bill ending local CAFO control is a threat to waters

    Loring Bullard, Linda Chorice, Barbara Lucks, John Madras, Todd Parnell, Joe Pitts, Barry Rowell, Beth Siegfried, Tim Smith, Terry Whaley

    Published 6:30 p.m. CT June 12, 2019

    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

  • 12 Jun 2019 8:23 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Democrat Gazette

    Buffalo River Alliance, Arkansas Canoe Club to sue hog farm

    by Staff Report | June 12, 2019 

    The Buffalo River Watershed Alliance and the Arkansas Canoe Club announced a Notice of Intent to sue C&H Hog Farms, Inc. due to violations of the Clean Water Act, according to a news release from the alliance.

    The Buffalo River Alliance claims C&H has illegally discharged swine waste, applied for a permit by misrepresenting facts and operated its facilities without a valid permit, according to the release.

    C&H is "attempting to extend coverage of its now-expired General Permit coverage" by appealing decisions of the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission and filing suit against the state Department of Environmental Quality, the alliance claims in the release.

    The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality denied a Regulation 5 permit application by C&H after the farm's permit lapsed.

    The Buffalo River Alliance and the Arkansas Canoe Club will file suit against C&H in U.S. District Court if the violations are not corrected within 60 days, the release stated.

    NW News on 06/13/2019

  • 09 Jun 2019 9:14 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Mountainous waste

    Duane Woltjen, an active member of (and leader in) virtually all environmental efforts across our state, and an advocate for our Buffalo National River, wrote to comment on my column in response to Warren Carter's May 16 guest essay explaining why the Farm Bureau supports the controversial C&H Hog Farms at Mount Judea.

    Educated as a mechanical engineer, Woltjen stays current with the latest developments with C&H and its 6,500 swine, whose enormous amounts of waste are regularly spread across the Buffalo watershed.

    Accordingly, he shared some calculations about how much leaking waste is actually approved for release into the karst subsurface on and around the spray fields.

    First, he explained that the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (cough) allows 5,000 gallons a day for each acre of sewage containment ponds. That's cited in the factory's application to the agency. Such a distinction matters because the factory's two ponds contain about 1.232 acres, which equals over 6,100 gallons leaked daily.

    "So how much is that if spread across a college football field, which is 360 by 160 feet including the end zones, 160 times 360 feet equals 57,600 square feet," he reasoned. "And 6,158 leaked gallons a day per acre times 365 days a year amounts to 2,247,670 allowable gallons annually.

    "If we spread those millions of gallons times 0.1337 cubic feet-per-gallon, that equals 300,470 cubic feet annually. That amount spread over 57,600 square feet totals 5.2 feet deep across a football field. And that's just what's allowable. This means ADEQ would not consider it a violation if the ponds have leaked enough waste to cover a football field to an accumulated depth of 36 feet," since its now-defunct Regulation 6 permit was issued in 2012.

    He also wondered whether the department or the C&H operators (who are obligated to "self-report" leakage) even know if their ponds leaked that much or even more. Would it be obvious? If so, how? Records show the last recorded agency inspection of this factory was in 2016.

    "Calculations reveal those 6,158 allowable leaking gallons daily will lower the level of the ponds 0.184 inches. With waste constantly flowing in, then withdrawn to spray across fields along and around tributary Big Creek, I'm betting nobody will notice 3/16 of an inch change in a pond level," Woltjen continued. "So pond leakage would be basically concealed from scrutiny."

    Reader Patricia Heck wrote a while back to summarize this once-avoidable mess: "Thanks for your efforts to save the Buffalo River from the grasping greed and politics in our society. I love farmers (even those supported by my tax money) but hog farms do not belong above a major tributary of the Buffalo.

    "I grew up on a farm and recognize a pig pen when I see one, and I question the motivation of the Farm Bureau and the University of Arkansas Agricultural Extension Service. Has greed surpassed conservation at our Buffalo National River as it has in other national parks?"

    Meanwhile, the National Park Service in a new release estimates 1.2 million visitors pumped $54.9 million into the region during 2018.

    I'm hoping Asa Hutchinson's legacy will be as the governor who closed this grossly mislocated factory (still operating without a permit) if it's not too late.


    Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.

    Editorial on 06/09/2019

  • 09 Jun 2019 9:12 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Inquiry is nearly finished at JBSBrazil meat giant adheres to orderby GERSON FREITAS JR. BLOOMBERG NEWS | Today at 1:43 a.m

    JBS SA is close to completing an internal investigation that stands to give Brazilian prosecutors additional evidence of wrongdoing as part of a leniency deal in a corruption scandal.

    The Sao Paulo meat giant and other companies controlled by the billionaire Batista brothers may be ready by September to present results of the independent investigation that has collected about 220 terabytes of data from mobile phones and computers and testimony from more than 600 people, according to Emir Calluf Filho, legal and compliance director at J&F Investimentos SA, the Batistas' holding company.

    Concluding the internal review will be another significant step toward normalcy for the world's biggest meat company after a scandal that broke two years ago. The Batista group has sought to restore credibility after brothers Joesley and Wesley admitted to bribing hundreds of politicians and inspectors in a case that sent JBS shares and bonds tumbling and hit Brazilian markets already rocked by the so-called Carwash kickback investigation.

    Back then, J&F agreed to pay $2.66 billion as part of a leniency deal to protect JBS and other businesses from charges. It also committed to work with third-party forensic firms to scrutinize past transactions while implementing a compliance program to avoid new illicit acts.

    "That's the biggest private investigation ever conducted by a Brazilian company," 39-year-old Calluf Filho said in Sao Paulo. The findings should provide authorities with robust evidence of the wrongdoings unveiled by the brothers, he said. Potential omissions in their confessions are also being investigated.

    More than 200 people and companies -- including cattle suppliers, law firms and consultancies -- have been blocked from doing business with the Batistas' empire, and "several" others are facing due-diligence procedures as a result of stricter controls and background checking, Calluf Filho said.

    More than 130,000 workers were trained on compliance, and internal accusations soared tenfold to about 200 a month after independent reporting channels were made available. People faced warning, resignation or prosecution because of wrongdoings. Some were relocated after receiving death threats for suspending illicit payments.

    JBS has also made governance progress after naming executives from outside the Batista clan for top posts -- including chief executive and financial officers -- for the first time in its 66-year history, Calluf Filho said. Still, family members remain in management and board positions.

    The Batista brothers, who spent about six months in jail after the scandal broke, were forced out of day-to-day operations in the company founded in 1953 by their father. Still, a new generation of Batistas -- led by Wesley's 27-year-old son, who bears his name, and his 26-year-old cousin Aguinaldo Gomes Ramos Filho -- is now taking the helm.

    "It's a family company, like most Brazilian firms," Calluf Filho said, adding the Batistas are committed to improving the group's reputation. "There's no turning back."

    Wesley Batista senior recently became a defendant in an investigation into alleged insider trading in the days before news of the plea bargain deal broke. J&F is yet to reach a deal with the U.S. Department of Justice to avoid prosecution under U.S. anti-bribery laws.

    Calluf Filho took over as a J&F executive in late 2017 against the advice of friends worried about him getting involved in a company that had been tainted by one of the biggest-ever corruption scandals in Brazil.

    "Many people thought I was crazy," he said. "But if you're able to change a company that has the power to transform its sector, you may also be helping to change the country."

    JBS shares have more than tripled in value since the lows of 2017. In the past year, the company has been the best-performing global meat stock tracked by Bloomberg, aided by the outbreak of a pig-killing disease in Asia that signals additional protein demand.

    SundayMonday Business on 06/09/2019

  • 04 Jun 2019 7:07 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    MIKE MASTERSON: Under fire

    by Mike Masterson | Today at 4:30 a.m.

    You may recall the pig-in-a-poke legislation known as Senate Bill 550 introduced by Sen. Gary Stubblefield during the recent General Assembly. The former dairy farmer from Branch was pushed whole hog by our unelected fourth branch of government, otherwise known as the Farm Bureau.

    This failed bill I came to call the Superfluous Stubblefield Stinker, sought to replace the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality's permitting and regulatory process for hog factories with a far less-demanding "certification" system overseen by the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission. That commission lacked the resources and experience to effectively regulate potential swine waste contamination of our state's water quality.

    I especially appreciated that Central Arkansas Water panned the bill in its news release about the bill: "SB550 presents a threat to the health and well-being of the people of Arkansas. If enacted, this bill would completely change the way liquid animal waste disposal systems, which are used primarily by large swine farms to dispose of liquid swine waste, are regulated in Arkansas. Although characterized by supporters of the bill as an effort to achieve greater efficiency in the permitting process, SB550 has the potential to expose some of the state's most important natural resources, including public drinking water reservoirs, to liquid animal waste.

    "Currently ADEQ is charged with issuing permits and conducting oversight of [such] disposal systems. ADEQ's process is effective and fair. It balances the needs of swine and dairy farmers with the right of the public to a safe and clean environment. It ensures the involvement of well-trained, knowledgeable professionals with years of experience. SB550 would wipe out the current permitting process and oversight of these facilities and gut current regulatory protections. Public notification requirements would be eliminated. Minimum distance setback from neighbors, streams and lakes could be lost. Subsurface investigation requirements to determine suitability for waste lagoons would no longer be required. Anonymous complaints would not be accepted or investigated, and public reporting necessarily would be deterred. Established, effective enforcement protocol would go by the wayside. As a result, swine farms would operate in a much more permissive environment, and the prospect of liquid animal waste entering the water reservoirs of our great state would become a much greater threat."

    Thankfully, Gov. Asa Hutchinson finally sealed an airtight bag around the stinker after it had passed a Farm Bureau-compliant Senate and was before the House. He said the idea of handing such critical responsibilities to an unprepared Natural Resources Commission needed further reflection.

    That brings me to what the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission discovered from its dealings with Natural Resources.

    Our ace outdoor writer Bryan Hendricks recently wrote how soured Game and Fish leaders have become in dealings with the Natural Resources Commission since a joint meeting May 1. That disenchantment included Natural Resources' reported failure to properly uphold its end of a supposedly mutual project.

    Ford Overton, chairman of Game and Fish, was fried to a crisp with the lack of response to helping restore the Bayou Meto Wildlife Management Area, a prime wetlands region for waterfowl hunting. Bayou Meto has been above flood pool for the past three years and the Natural Resources Commission supposedly was the lead state agency for funding its restoration project.

    Hendricks wrote that Jennifer Sheehan, the Game and Fish federal liaison, was concerned Natural Resources had yet to contact her for follow-up meetings about the project.

    A fuming Overton then wondered if it might be possible to get a different, non-federal sponsor. "Anybody, anybody but the Natural Resources Commission," he said. "They're so unmotivated. They so don't care. The leadership ... doesn't understand it. ... The entities have $140 million invested in an idle project that could be saving a lot of habitat. They don't give a s**t. ... There's no sense of urgency. None."

    Attorney Ken Reeves of Harrison, vice chairman and incoming Game and Fish chairman, said the Natural Resources Commission's attitude also has troubled him, reported Hendricks. "I was underwhelmed at the last meeting by their lack of inspiration. They said they were going to pay for the project by selling water to people that don't want to buy water. They've got to figure out how to do their part of this. There's no creative thinking."

    And this, valued readers, is the same Natural Resources Commission with which Stubblefield wanted to replace the Department of Environmental Quality when it comes to monitoring and responsibility for conditions at Arkansas swine factories.

    Methinks the good people of Arkansas should extend further appreciation to the governor for recognizing this purely political idea for stitching together a supposed Natural Resources Commission silk purse was nothing more than a raggedy sow's ear all along.

  • 03 Jun 2019 7:04 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Arkansas Times

    After the flood: assessing the impact on livestock operations


     Max Brantley  

    ON June 3, 2019

    Preservation of life and property is paramount with Arkansas River at historic levels in Arkansas, but questions have also begun about what’s been put into the river by flood water.

    One example: Runaway barges filled with tons of fertilizer hit a dam and sunk in Oklahoma

    Livestock operations exist along the waterway. They serve as useful sources of fertilizer for farming operations in drier times. Many operate under state permits for waste handling. It’s too soon to know how many were affected, but undoubtedly many were.  There have also been overflows from sewage treatment facilities along the river. The various releases at least been diluted by the enormous water flow.

    We learned today, that at least one hog feeding operation was inundated by flood waters in Yell County after a levee failed in the Holla Bend area near Dardanelle. Jerry Masters, executive vice president of the Arkansas Pork Producers, said the operators of the 2,400-sow operation had tried but failed to remove all the hogs Friday before the rising water forced them to leave. He said the holding ponds for hog waste presumably were flooded, but it’s too early to assess.

    The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality said:

    ADEQ is aware that Balloun Farm in Yell County was inundated with water after a breach in the levee along Luther Lake. ADEQ is providing support to the Department of Agriculture to address any adverse impacts and to ensure protection of public health and the environment. At this time, it is undetermined how many of the farm’s 2,400 weaning sows were evacuated before the rising water made the farm inaccessible. ADEQ will expect the operator to complete and submit a facility status report once the water has recessed to the point that it is safe to return to the farm. ADEQ also plans to conduct an inspection once flood waters return to levels that allow entry into the farm.

    JBS USA, which contracts with the Balloun farm, issued this statement:

    “We are saddened by the flooding that occurred in the Dardanelle community and at the farm after the levee broke early Friday morning. Animal health and welfare is a top priority for JBS USA, and we worked diligently to save as many animals as possible. Our team stayed on site moving pigs to a safe area until law enforcement required them to leave to ensure their own safety. We are still assessing the damage and are grateful to all those who have helped, including our team members, neighbors and local farmers, during this difficult time.”

    In a somewhat related development, Masters said he understood a hog farm permit sought by the owners of the C and H Hog Farm in Mount Judea (a subject of long controversy because of its location in the Buffalo River watershed) would be withdrawn. The owners had filed for a permit  for a sow farrowing operation in the Hartman Bottoms near the Arkansas River in Franklin County. The application drew concern from some local residents about potential for flooding. Masters said he’d been told the farm property had not flooded last week, though area roads had. The Department of Environmental Quality said it had sent a list of deficiencies for the permit application Coon Tree Farm submitted in late February. It said it was still waiting for an official response from the applicant to address those deficiencies.

    Masters remarked to me that climate changes in general, such as warmer temperatures and unusual rain, not just the likelihood of future floods, have left agriculture in “uncharted waters.”

  • 26 May 2019 12:36 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    MIKE MASTERSON: Another viewThe C&H debacle

    by Mike Masterson

    The executive vice president of the Arkansas Farm Bureau recently wrote a guest essay on this page defending his support for C&H Hog Farms and its misplaced location deep within the environmentally fragile and precious Buffalo National River watershed. 

    After discussions with those in the know and self-reflection, I have some related thoughts. Imagine that.

    To me, Warren Carter embraced a largely unreasonable and overly simplistic position about this large concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO).

    First, he mistakenly interpreted the state's latest effort to terminate C&H's operations at its unacceptable location as a war on farmers and agriculture in general, while flatly ignoring other highly relevant aspects of reality. Hogwash.

    The widespread public outcry is by no means a war on farmers or agriculture. It is simply tens of thousands of Arkansans and others wanting to prevent one meat-producing factory from destroying an invaluable natural asset for which our state and country are responsible.

    Certainly no one entirely faults the C&H families who raise swine for Brazilian meat processor JBS for the situation, although they do have a hog (or 6,500) in this hunt. Jason Henson, (the H in C&H) has conceded that, in selecting the site, he and his partners completed no studies nor provided other documented consideration to the factory's location in relation to the river.

    Seems to me it would have been reasonable and prudent to have considered those factors before purchasing and leasing property for a large swine factory above a major tributary of the Buffalo.

    and others also find fault in this avoidable fiasco with the University of Arkansas Agricultural Extension Service, which either failed to recognize this karst-riddled property as a problem site in initial consultations with C&H, or failed to discuss obvious potential problems. The Extension Service and its offshoot, the Big Creek Research and Extension Team, to me also has been willing to overlook shortcomings at C&H, choosing to defend its unacceptable location.

    Finally comes our Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (cough), which should have been alert enough to determine at the time C&H submitted the application for its general permit in 2012 that this was likely the worst location in Arkansas to allow such a hog factory.

    For whatever reasons, the agency spectacularly failed to do its due diligence. Why didn't that agency insist on the geologic and geoscience studies before ever considering a permit in this location, the same inappropriate region it once restricted for this use?

    The department thankfully has since attempted to rectify that blunder, or whatever it was, by denying C&H's application for an individual permit. That in itself has now proven difficult because C&H is entitled under the law to due process by appealing the permit denial, and has a sympathetic judge in Newton County.

    In his treatise Carter argues that C&H has gotten no citations or notices of violations over its operation. I see that as very much a red herring, since most experts agree a major source of contamination of the Buffalo from C&H results from the sustained application of millions of gallons of hog-waste slurry from its sediment ponds (i.e., phosphorus and nitrogen) onto spray fields in the Big Creek/Buffalo River watershed.

    It's clear that land beneath the spray fields has thin, if any, top soil. It is underlain by fractured karst geology. Much of the raw waste applied to that land is easily transported to Big Creek by storm water, or permeates through the subterranean fractured rock and soil to invariably make its way down into the national river. To the state this sustained mess is generally considered permissible "agricultural runoff" and difficult to prove as a "violation."

    In addition, it appears to me that Carter may not be aware that C&H's waste sediment ponds, containing about 1.8 million gallons of hog waste, can lawfully leak that waste into the karst beneath the ponds at a rate of approximately 3,000 to 5,000 gallons per day. Simple physics says much of that eventually seeps its way to Big Creek and/or the Buffalo, both down-gradient from the hog farm.

    Strikes me, if he and the Farm Bureau wanted to help resolve this matter for the benefit not only of the C&H owners but also the citizens of Arkansas who greatly value the economic and aesthetic attraction of the country's first national river, they would work cooperatively with the environmental organizations, the Department of Environmental Quality, and state and private parties in attempting to negotiate a way in which C&H could receive financial assistance in closing and relocating to a vastly more suitable location.


    Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.

    Editorial on 05/26/2019


© Buffalo River Watershed Alliance
Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software