Locals plan forum, demonstration in opposition to hog farm near the Buffalo River

Organizers of a planned demonstration on the University of Arknasas Campus make signs outside a local bar on Sunday afternoon.

Photo: Courtesy, Kim Agee

Locals concerned about a hog farm recently permitted to be built along a tributary of the Buffalo National River in Arkansas are planning a demonstration opposing the plans for Tuesday, April 23 at the University of Arkansas. A public forum on the issue is also set for May 1 at the Fayetteville Public Library.

The controversy stems from a recent decision by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) to approve a permit for C&H Farms to operate a 670-acre farm on the banks of Big Creek near Mount Judea. The farm will generate about 2 million gallons of waste annually, and the plan is to dispose of the liquid waste by spraying it onto 640 acres of surrounding grassland, causing concern that some of the waste will make its way into the Buffalo National River.

The demonstration, organized by former Fayetteville mayor Dan Coody, will take place at noon on Tuesday at the corner of Maple Street and Garland Avenue on campus. The event is planned to coincide with a visit by the USDA Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, who will speak in the E. J. Ball Courtroom at the University of Arkansas Law School at 1 p.m. on Tuesday.

“Actions taken by the Farm Service Agency, a part of the USDA, have resulted in the C&H Hog Factory being built without a complete ADEQ application or environmental impact statement,” the Facebook event for the protest reads. “Secretary Vilsack needs to know there is something rotten in Newton County.”

The forum is organized by a group calling themselves “Buffalo River Rescue: Mission Possible,” led by locals Kim and Janie Agee, Tammy Graham, Margaret Britain, and Ginny Masullo. The forum is set for 6 p.m. on Wednesday, May 1 in the Walker Room at the Fayetteville Public Library, and will be moderated by Kyle Kellams of KUAF. The event will include short speeches from Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan, Terry Spence of the Socially Responsible Agriculture Project, and a representative of the Ozark Society. Representatives from the Audubon Society, the Sierra Club and the Arkansas Canoe Club will also attend, organizers said.

Kim Agee said he intends for the forum to be educational. “It will hopefully be a good source of information for people to learn about these CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) farms, and how they want to contend with them,” he said.

The Fayetteville City Council last week unanimously passed a resolution in opposition to the permit of the C&H Hog Farm, and the Arkansas House of Representatives last week passed House Bill 2252 to create stronger public notification requirements for future concentrated animal feeding operations.

The ADEQ is also planning a public meeting on the issue at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 8 at the Carrol Electric building in Jasper.

An online petition opposing the farm now has over 9,700 signatures as well.

Agee said he hopes the protest and the public forum will help to raise enough awareness and attention to ultimately halt the C&H Hog Farm operation.

“There are still things folks can do to help,” he said. “They can call Cargill, they can write to their national elected representatives, they can shop up and peacefully demonstrate at the UA tomorrow, they can learn as much as possible about this CAFO business as they can, and make an intelligent decision about it. Those are some things they can do.”