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The High Price Of A Hog Farm

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The High Price Of A Hog Farm

Farm Owners Remain Confused About Community
Outcry Over Hog Farm Near Buffalo River

Hog Farm2

TFW File Photo
C and H Farms — a hog Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) — is permitted to hold 2,503 swine weighing 55 lbs. or over and 4,000 swine weighing less than 55 lbs., all with an average weight of 150 lbs., estimated to produce approximately 2 million gallons of manure, litter and waste water per year.

By Terrah Baker

Jason Henson is one of three partners opening up C and H Hog Farms in Newton County, approximately 6 miles from the connecting point of the Big Creek and Dry Creek to the Buffalo River, and about 1 mile from Henson’s home.

Hog farming is no new game to Henson and his two cousins who have been running Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) for about 12 years — two of them still up and running.

But their latest hog farm is proving to be a different experience. Activists and concerned citizens are attacking the project, saying the manure holding ponds will leak, the river will be contaminated and the pristine wilderness that surrounds the Buffalo River could lose its former glory.

With all the “if’s” and uncertainties causing such chaos in the community, Henson and his business partners have been left confused and eager to defend themselves.

“What blows my mind is ‘what makes them think they know more than the ADEQ or EPA about what’s going to do what?’ That don’t make sense to me. That’s ADEQ’s job — to protect the environment,” Henson said.

Which is why many people are questioning the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality about their decision to let the hog farm begin operations within such close proximity to the Buffalo, close to a mile from Mount Judea schools, and with little notification to the public and even the National Park Service that manages Buffalo National River.

Enforcing Federal Regulations With Limited Resources

But ADEQ approves 30-40 permits a month, and they have many more roles and little resources. Basically, ADEQ enforces regulations put in place by the federal government, ADEQ spokesperson Katherine Benenati said.

“The 34 regulations adopted by the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission are the basis for ADEQ’s permitting, monitoring and enforcement programs, public involvement, activities and other services,” she explained.

The Environmental Protection Agency sets regulations for CAFOs based on a 2003 lawsuit against the EPA — the basis for ADEQ’s standards for C and H Farm.

Henson said they worked hard to exceed standards set by ADEQ, and will be spending a lot of money to do so. Property taxes alone, he said, are expected to be around $30,000 a year, 87 percent of which goes to the school district in Newton County.

“We got a CAFO permit, which is a federal permit,” Henson said. “They will shut you down if they think you’re doing something you’re not supposed to be doing.”

ADEQ will be monitoring C and H Farms’ in-house shallow pits with a capacity of over 700,000 gallons, a settling basin with capacity of over 800,000 gallons and a holding pond with capacity of 1.9 million gallons.

“We are using the latest technology available to us to make sure we keep our environment in as good a shape, if not better than it was before we came,” Henson said. “We all grew up and lived in this. (The Buffalo River) is where I take my kids to swim. Why on Earth if I thought (a CAFO) would pollute anything would I do this?”

They didn’t just take a pick and shovel to the ground, they had professional engineers come and survey the land, Henson explained. They chose the location for the farm based on the aggregation fields where they will be spraying the approximately 2 million gallons of manure, litter and wastewater estimated to be produced each year — it had to be on a hill so the waste could aggregate (collect) in the ponds below. Besides the pre-planning, Henson said once the farm is up and running, the ponds must be checked daily.

Solutions To A Complex Economic, Environmental Issue

Hog FarmBut still, natural disasters happen, man-made accidents occur. And while Henson and ADEQ hope for the best, past experiences and scientific research on CAFOs are making grassroots and national environmentalists, local business owners and Newton County residents concerned.

“We must act to defeat this CAFO, and seek policies that will build a wall around the Buffalo River Watershed. If we lose this, we lose a part of ourselves,” said the Buffalo River Alliance’s website — a group formed after the announcement of the hog farm.

Research by the Union of Concerned Scientists reports that CAFOs are unnatural and unsustainable, gathering too many animals in one location creating an abundance of disease and manure. However, alternative production methods can be economically efficient and environmentally safe.

“These methods can deliver abundant animal products while avoiding most of the problems caused by CAFOs. However, these alternatives are at a competitive disadvantage because CAFOs have reduced their costs through subsidies that come at the public’s expense, including (until very recently) low-cost feed. CAFOs have also benefited from taxpayer-supported pollution cleanup programs and technological ‘fixes’ that may be counterproductive, such as the overuse of antibiotics,” the report stated.

Some suggest a middle ground could be using the manure as biofuel to operate the CAFO itself or for other uses. Bills have been introduced in the Arkansas legislature suggesting similar ideas — SB 933 that allows tax credits for producing alternative fuels, and SB 941 that would create a tax exemption for qualified drop-in biofuels manufacturers.

Solutions seem to lie in stricter regulations from the federal government, and incentives for sustainable farming and alternative fuel production, the environmentalists suggest, but as of now the farm is being constructed, and Henson expects to begin operation within the year.

10 Comments

water warrior March 21, 2013 at 4:29 pm

“What blows my mind is ‘what makes them think they know more than the ADEQ or EPA about what’s going to do what?’ That don’t make sense to me. That’s ADEQ’s job — to protect the environment,” Henson said.

Oh, if only.

ADEQ staffers would probably define their jobs a bit differently. They aren’t charged with protecting the environment, they are charged with upholding the REGULATIONS that are in place.

Dig a bit deeper into the sausage machine and you will discover that most of those regulations were written by the very industries they are intended to regulate, through a “stakeholders’ process” in which the public had little or no say. Yes, the CAFO owners wrote their own regs.

Any public citizen who tries to navigate the treacherous path of challenging such a permit as has been issued to C&H will discover, in short order, that the system is stacked against the public and heavily favors industry. I have attended many a public hearing in which industry officials would state the boiler plate: “we follow the regulations and operate entirely within the law.” Does this mean they do not pollute? Of course not!

Even the paddle-happy Buffalo River-loving ADEQ staffer who is horrified by the siting of this CAFO upstream of their holy grail will be unable to do much about it.

Thank you Terrah Baker and the Free Weekly for highlighting this mess. Please keep up the good reporting and follow this story closely.

Reply to this comment
Kathy L May 6, 2013 at 7:46 pm

Thanks water warrior for your information, now please tell me what to do AFTER signing the petition. I know EVERYONE wants to stop this Hog Farm, regardless of CAFO’s permit, is there a CHANCE to change this situation before children and Buffalo are harmed beyond repair? I know my question is not different, just need to know if there is a CHANCE to change this horrific decision, Help and Please send potential relief..Peace & Thanks

Reply to this comment
Keeping the water clean March 22, 2013 at 11:21 am

and when it spills it will be oh i’m sorry it was an accident…we all scream for development like this to boost the economy and when it leaves we are stuck with the cleanup…such as what happened when Whirlpool pulled out of Fort Smith…you can google a news article if you are unaware of the situation.

Reply to this comment
Dan Coody March 22, 2013 at 11:59 am

When the only notice for CAFO permits is on the ADEQ website, and not in any newspaper, why would anyone think that the public has been properly informed about things like this? This new notification rule was generated to hide these projects from the public until it’s too late to do anything about them.

The only way to keep from becoming the next state polluted by industrial hog waste is to get involved and make a stink that exceeds that of a hog waste lagoon.

C&H Hog farm was approved over 7 months ago and the public is just now learning about it. What’s wrong with this picture?

Check out the TED talk about hog farms in N.C. and realize they are coming to a location and a river near you.

Reply to this comment
Dan Coody March 22, 2013 at 12:02 pm

When the only notice for CAFO permits is on the ADEQ website, and not in any newspaper, why would anyone think that the public has been properly informed about things like this? This new notification rule was generated to hide these projects from the public until it’s too late to do anything about them.

The only way to keep from becoming the next state polluted by industrial hog waste is to get involved and make a stink that exceeds that of a hog waste lagoon.

C&H Hog farm was approved over 7 months ago and the public is just now learning about it. What’s wrong with this picture?

ADEQ’s Teresa Marks and Steve Drown have the authority to have these public notification rules changed. Let them hear from you.

Check out the TED talk about hog farms in N.C. and realize they are coming to a location and a river near you.

Reply to this comment
water warrior March 23, 2013 at 11:14 am

Thank you Dan for speaking up here and elsewhere about this travesty. I hope you will participate in creating that stink that is worse than the hog farm–being outspoken about the entirely inadequate permitting and notification process is a good start!

Reply to this comment
Please keep helping April 19, 2013 at 11:03 am

Here is a link for SCRP, Socially Responsible Agriculture Project. http://www.sraproject.org/opposing/ The whole state and country needs to get involved in this. The treatment of humans and animals by these particular corporate farms is horrible. SCRP is full of great info. The locals need outside support. For every silenced voice, 10 will spring up.

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