by Max Brantley
State legislators have an interesting twofer today and tomorrow — a Buffalo River float trip and a visit to a mass hog feeding operation that conservationists fear holds peril for the pristine national river. Hosts will include the Arkansas Farm Bureau and agri-giant Cargill.
A news release follows from the National Parks Conservation Association, one of several groups that have criticized an inadequate permitting process for the C&H Hog Farm at Mount Judea, which will house 6,500 pigs for Cargill. It says, in part:
By forcing a permit through that has tremendous holes with a lack of adequate public input, these agencies have endangered our treasured landscape and the livelihoods of many individuals — including the owners of C & H. The organizations concerned about the impact of C & H are pro-farm, but we are also pro-Buffalo National River, and the threat to the nation’s first national river is real.
Don Nelms, the environmentalist business tycoon/photographer who watches over the Buffalo River from a bluff-top home above Jasper, is urging a demonstration of river advocates at lunch Wednesday in Jasper. Earlier, we posted his photo slideshow on the issue. He sent the artwork above with the following message:
Until Cargill acknowledges that they made a mistake and rectify their mistake, there will continue to be a large hog farm in the Buffalo National River watershed.
Cargill is hosting a luncheon for the Arkansas Senate and House Agriculture Committees at the Ozark Café on Wednesday, May 22, in Jasper. This would be a perfect time for you to send a message to Cargill. If everyone would show up on the square of Jasper by about 10:30 and protest until the legislators leave around 1 o'clock, I think it would have a profound effect on the disposition of this whole issue.
Cargill thinks they're going to just wait this thing out and that the people voicing opposition to their locating this hog farm in Newton County are just a bunch of wacko environmentalists. Let's prove them wrong. Let's show them that the opposition comes from all walks of life.
Groups Urge Continued Focus on Faulty Permitting Process for Factory Hog Farm Near Buffalo National River
Background: On May 21 and 22, Arkansas state legislators will tour C & H Hog Farms, which was approved through an inadequate permitting process that did not factor in the potential for numerous environmental and health impacts to the region and Buffalo National River. The agencies that approved the loan and permit for the factory farm failed to consult with the National Park Service or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is charged with protecting endangered species in the region. Local residents could face health impacts, along with a constant unpleasant odor, due to exposure to ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, and methane. Additionally, the farm's Nutrient Management Plan (NMP) contained significant errors, omissions and misrepresentations, which were highlighted in a letter to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality last week, urging them to revoke the permit. The letter and associated attachments can be found here: http://buffaloriveralliance.org/Default.aspx?pageId=1558368
Statement by Michael Dougherty, President of the Buffalo River Chamber of Commerce and Member of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance
“As state legislators prepare to tour C & H Hog Farms, the National Parks Conservation Association, Ozark Society, Buffalo River Watershed Alliance and Arkansas Canoe Club urge that the focus remain on the faulty permitting process that has allowed this industrial hog factory to proceed. The presence of this concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) in the Buffalo River Watershed continues to cause an uproar throughout the state and endangers the local economy, America's first national river — the Buffalo, as well as the quality of life for thousands of surrounding residents.
“The individuals who are set to operate C & H were put into an unfortunate position by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) and USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA). The situation we have now is a result of a failed permitting process, and Cargill — the international agri-giant who will supply the hogs — and the agencies involved should be working toward a resolution that pleases everyone. By forcing a permit through that has tremendous holes with a lack of adequate public input, these agencies have endangered our treasured landscape and the livelihoods of many individuals — including the owners of C & H. The organizations concerned about the impact of C & H are pro-farm, but we are also pro-Buffalo National River, and the threat to the nation’s first national river is real.
“Buffalo National River brought over 1 million visitors to the region, who supported roughly $38 million in economic activity in 2011. Visitors spend money in our stores. They rent our vacation homes. They eat in our restaurants. They fish and kayak in our river. The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality and USDA's Farm Service Agency owe it to the people of Arkansas and to the residents who depend on this river to show the true impacts of this factory farm through an open and transparent process. We’re calling on Cargill, ADEQ and the federal government to make this right.”