The Buffalo River in Arkansas’ Ozark Mountains became America’s first National River in 1972.
Today, over forty years later, the water quality of the river and the economic stability of the region are threatened by a new industrial pig farm, or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) that has been located in Newton County, Arkansas.
While the Buffalo River offers extraordinary recreational opportunities along 135 miles of free flowing river, only 11 percent of its watershed is within the national park boundary. The health of this pristine river is dependent upon the water quality of its tributaries, many of which lie outside the park’s boundaries. The newly-built factory farm, C & H, is on the banks of Big Creek, a major tributary of the Buffalo National River located less than 6 stream miles fromwhere they meet.
This CAFO was built to supply pork to Cargill, an international producer of food, agriculture, financial, and industrial products. It was backed by taxpayer money but residents and taxpayers weren’t given a meaningful say in the permitting process. C & H took out a $4 million loan, backed by a federal guarantee from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency (FSA). The FSA failed to give the public adequate notice and also failed to allow other government agencies, including the National Park Service, opportunity to carry out their responsibility to protect the river and public health in the region.
The facility, permitted by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, is the first large swine CAFO in the state. C & H’s Nutrient Management Plan, an important component of the facility’s permit application, contains significant omissions, errors, and misrepresentations. The 6,500 pigs at the C & H facility will generate close to 3.5 million gallons of manure and wastewater annually that will be distributed onto nearby fields. Instead of providing reassurance, the management plan makes it clear that the facility will be dumping this phosphorus and nitrogen-rich hog waste onto fields that already have plenty of these nutrients. The excess will then be available to run off into groundwater, risking the growth of nuisance algae and alterations to the local stream system’s ecology. The area’s porous karst geology makes it more likely that contaminants will leach into the groundwater and become a health risk for paddlers, fishermen and swimmers, threatening both residents and tourists alike.
Tourism is a primary economic driver in the Arkansas Ozarks and the Buffalo National River plays a major role in bringing tourists to the area. More than 1 million people visit the river each year to enjoy its spectacular setting and unspoiled character. They float and fish the river, visit historic and prehistoric sites, and hike the parks’ 100 miles of trails. They spend money at local businesses, supporting many local jobs, and also help to maintain property values by retiring in the region.
According to a 2012 report released by Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, tourism in the Buffalo River Region created 3,495 jobs and generated $18.5 million in state taxes and $5.9 million in local taxes in 2012. Newton County’s Chamber of Commerce, located in Jasper, bills the area as Nature’s Paradise, Buffalo National River Country, The most spectacular area in the Ozark Mountains.
NPCA, along with the Ozark Society, Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, and Arkansas Canoe Club, is working with attorneys from Earth Justice, Earth Rise Law Center, and Carney Bates & Pulliam, LLC, to find legal and administrative solutions to protect and keep the Buffalo National River safe and clean.
Please join with us by making your voice heard! Let the USDA, ADEQ, and Governor Beebe of Arkansas know that the Buffalo National River watershed is not an appropriate location for factory farming. Insist that the ADEQ permit be revoked, FSA loan guarantees be withdrawn, and the CAFO be moved from this inappropriate site. We need your help so we can protect the Buffalo for present and future generations to come.
Please send a letter or make a call today!
Governor Mike Beebe
Arkansas State Capitol, Room 250
Little Rock, AR 72201
Secretary Tom Vilsack
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave SW
Washington, DC 20250
Acting Director Ryan Benefield
Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality
5301 Northshore Drive
North Little Rock, AR 72118