Friday, October 25, 2013

Pork producers suggest more danger to Buffalo River from people than pigs

Posted By on Fri, Oct 25, 2013 at 1:35 PM

click to enlarge CAUTION: People use the Buffalo River and they're more damaging than pigs, the Arkansas Pork Producers say.
  • CAUTION: People use the Buffalo River and they're more damaging than pigs, the Arkansas Pork Producers say.

The campaign against a mass hog feeding operation in the Buffalo National River watershed is generating enough heat that the agricultural industry is fighting back.

On the jump, find an opinion article written under the name of an Arkansas Pork Producers Association executive. It defends the Cargill-supplied mass feeder pig operation at Mount Judea, along a Buffalo tributary. Themes: Pig farmers love the Buffalo River. They're trying to preserve a dying industry. Fears of contamination from the tons of pig manure produced by the operation are based on "extraordinarily unlikely what if" scenarios. 

The pork producers propound that the immediate pollution problem is not pig poop but people poop. Yes, people.

See, the National Park Service puts treated waste on cropland and into the river under permit.  1.5 million visitors put bacteria in the water. 

Until the resources being spent by activists are redirected to mitigate actual Buffalo River pollution, not imagined pollution based on speculation and fear mongering, their efforts are as disingenuous as any accusations they apply to others. 

If you don't believe the Pork Producers, just ask the Farm Bureau or owners of C&H Hog Farm. They'll straighten you out.

The opinion piece was distributed from a personal e-mail account. The name on the account is the same as that of someone who once worked for a Little Rock  PR firm employee, but I haven't heard back yet from the sender about her employer; who's paying for distribution, and whether the named author had help in the writing.

UPDATE: Caitlin Berry, an employee of Heathcott Associates, a PR firm, confirms she circulated the piece as "volunteer" work for the pork producers because her agency works with agriculture agencies in doing promotional work for the State Fair. She said Masters gave it to her to distribute.

Attached is an opinion editorial from Mr. Jerry Masters, Executive Vice-President of Arkansas Pork Producers Association, regarding C & H Hog Farms from northwest Arkansas. Mr. Masters' letter was prepared as an answer to the latest attacks from out-of-state special interests groups that have recently targeted C & H and their legal farming operation.

Buffalo River Opinion-Editorial

Nobody wants to see the water quality of the Buffalo River adversely impacted. That list includes farmers, agribusiness companies, and other ag-related associations, as well as the State of Arkansas. Arkansans wouldn’t know that from reading recent weekly newspaper columns or listening to the information being disseminated by those who oppose a swine farm that was built earlier this year in Newton County, C&H Hog Farm. C & H followed all the appropriate government permit approvals that are in place.

The expansion took place in a rural area of Northwest Arkansas that has been involved in crop, hog, poultry and beef cattle production for generations – long before the Buffalo River received its national designation half-a-century-ago. Poultry barns, cattle herds and hog farms remain part of the area’s economy, and part of the state’s $16 billion annual economic benefit from agriculture. Agriculture remains a key component of the Arkansas economy. However in recent years, hog production has left Arkansas. For example, today there are 85% fewer hogs produced in Arkansas than a decade ago.

Since last winter, when the superintendent of the Buffalo National River complained about the permitting process used by the State of Arkansas to allow the family owned farm in Newton County to expand hog production, some individuals and environmental organizations have expressed concerns. Those concerns, at times reaching a fever pitch, are based on an extraordinarily unlikely “what if” scenario whereby hog manure gets loose from the thick clay walls of the farm’s over-engineered storage lagoons built to 150% of state-mandated capacity.

The flames of fear have been fanned and exploited by some who have expressed opposition to state government, agriculture, and large scale food production. They have attacked the farmers’ motives (making a living by hog farming); assailed the values, ethics, morals and intent of the company buying the farm’s hogs (Cargill); and have tried to generate opposition by comparing the Newton County farm with large scale hog production in other states.

The Buffalo River Watershed Alliance has been founded specifically with the mission to shut down this farm. Activists from New York, California, North Carolina, Missouri, Oklahoma and other states have aligned themselves with efforts to purge this family farm from Newton County. Now, a New York based group called Waterkeepers is travelling around Arkansas trying to convince people that hog waste from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) will lead to inevitable environmental catastrophe. Earlier this year, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette nailed this type of activity on the head by labeling it “Environmental McCarthyism.”

Yes, the hog farm with its 2,500 sows is designated a “CAFO” by the State of Arkansas. It’s the first designated CAFO in Arkansas. It’s the largest designated CAFO in Arkansas. It’s also the smallest and only CAFO in Arkansas. Those opposed to the farm would have Arkansans believe the door has been opened and there will be a stampede of CAFOs into the state that leaves a swath of devastation. Instead, the sad fact is that 85% of the hog production has fled Arkansas over the past decade and it isn’t coming back.

The river itself is a victim of sorts in this debate. If it could talk, the Buffalo River would probably say the following:

Let’s fix the things currently impacting my water quality;

Stop dumping treated human sewage from the National Park Service restrooms into my water (National Park Service is the permittee);
Please fix or replace the leaky septic tanks in the watershed;

Don’t complain about the C&H Farm spreading hog waste on hayfields when the National Park Service spreads treated human waste on croplands in the Buffalo River Watershed (National Park Service is the permittee);

1.5 million human visitors each year introduce a lot of bacteria to my water, so let’s not ignore that impact;

While we’re at it, do we still need those National Park Service signs along the river that warn people about polluted water and high bacteria counts from the yearlong raw sewage spill by the town of Jasper in 2009?

Until the resources being spent by activists are redirected to mitigate actual Buffalo River pollution, not imagined pollution based on speculation and fear mongering, their efforts are as disingenuous as any accusations they apply to others. The Arkansas Farm Bureau, C&H Hog Farm, the State of Arkansas, The University of Arkansas, The Nature Conservancy, Cargill and others truly interested in the long-term stewardship of the area’s nature resources, prefer to work on solutions — which they are doing — and not to attack others.

-Jerry Masters

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