Friday, May 17, 2013

Conservation groups to sue USDA over hog farm loan

The May 8, 2013 issue of the Newton County Times reports on a press release indicating that "a coalition of conservation groups" will sue the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture regarding the Farm Service Agency's loan guarantee for C & H Farm, an industrial hog farm on Big Creek, a tributary to the Buffalo National River.  Read earlier blog posts about the hog farm here and here.  The coalition apparently intends to argue that the decision by the FSA "was not properly examined and may violate the Endangered Species Act."

The Buffalo River watershed is "home to over 300 species of fish, insects, freshwater mussels, and aquatic plants, including the endangered snuffbox mussel, the endangered Gray bat, and the endangered Indiana bat." A spokeswoman for the Southeast Region at National Parks Conservation Association stated:
This factory farm will produce massive quantities of waste just six miles from the Buffalo River, and that waste will be spread on land that is right next to one of the Buffalo's major tributaries.  We are talking about one of the most beautiful areas in the country.  To think that our government would allow this hog factory in the watershed without examining its impacts is unconscionable.
The Farm Service Agency of USDA guaranteed 90% of the loan to C & H Farm.  That loan was used to purchase 23.43 acres in Mount Judea, Arkansas, and also for the construction of two barns. Those barns will house more than 6500 swine.

Robert Cross, president of the Ozark Society is quoted in the story:
This is the greatest threat to the Buffalo River since the Corp of Engineers damn proposal that we were able to thwart 50 years ago.  The porous limestone and karst that underlies all of the soil in the Mt. Judea region provides a direct passageway for leakage from the waste holding ponds and for untreated recharge from the waste application fields to reach the groundwater and thus Big Creek and the Buffalo River.  The risk for contamination of the Buffalo River is unacceptably high.  
Hannah Chang, an attorney with Earthjustice, is also quoted:
The letter we are sending today is a notice to the Dept. of Agriculture that its Farm Service Agency failed to undertake the consultation that is required to ensure that endangered species are not harmed as a result of the agency's action. 
Lastly, Jack Stewart of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance is quoted:
Our aim is to prevent this farm from going forward without a thorough examination of the consequences--consequences that could result in irreversible damage to one of America's most treasured places, the Buffalo National River.
Earthjustice and Earthrise are representing the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, the National Parks Conservation Alliance, and the Ozark Society in sending the the notice of intent to sue the USDA.

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