NEWTON COUNTY, Ark. The governor of Arkansas says he's reached an agreement with C and H Hog Farm to cease operations on the watershed near the Buffalo National River.
It's been a long back and forth between C and H Hog Farms, and organizations saying the farm is contaminating the Buffalo National River.
Members of the community expressed concern in January of 2018.
"Increased levels of phosphorous, nitrates, low-dissolved oxygen, E. Coli, showing up in the streams and of course this flows into the Buffalo River," a spokesperson for the Buffalo National River Watershed Alliance said.
The farm is next to Big Creek, which flows into the river.
And many people say there's nothing tying the farm to the contamination.
An ecologist with the US Geological Survey back in April said following a two-year study they didn’t see any statistical differences in the nutrient concentrations upstream of Big Creek compared to the ones downstream of Big Creek.
“Basically right now they’re saying there’s no measurable impact between Big Creek, we can’t necessarily say the hog farm because we didn’t collect up there, so basically they’re just looking at the creek itself. So the nutrient inputs from Big Creek are not impacting the main stem of the Buffalo," said Shawn Hodges, an ecologist with the National Park Service.
"There's been no hint. No environmental citation. No evidence whatsoever of pollution to Big Creek, let alone the Buffalo River," said Dustin Cowell, who lives in Mt. Judea back in October.
The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality denied a permit for the hog farm just last year.
Now after years of legal battles, Governor Asa Hutchinson says he and the farm owners have reached an agreement to shut down the farm.
"The farmers, Jason Henson, Richard Campbell and Phillip Campbell obtained the permit fairly and have operated the hog farm with the utmost care from the beginning. They have not done anything wrong. The state should have never given them the permit to begin with in the Buffalo River Watershed," Hutchinson said.
In the agreement it says the hog farm owners offered to donate a conservation easement to the state of Arkansas.
Because of the investments made into the hog farm the state will give the farm owners about $6.2 million dollars.
"Which will pay off a multimillion dollar loan and will compensate the farmers the loss of an ongoing business," Hutchinson said.
The governor says this will be a process over the next couple of months.
The governor says the majority of that $6.2 million will be taxpayer dollars.
The Arkansas Farm Bureau released in a statement:
This is a private, and personal, decision by the owners of C&H Hog Farm, which, no doubt, was based on what they felt is best for their future. Arkansas Farm Bureau’s support for the owners of C&H has not wavered, and we wish them success in whatever endeavor they choose to pursue.
You cannot tell this story without emphasizing that C&H had no environmental violations during more than five years of operation. That critical point has sometimes been lost. This farm underwent exhaustive testing and evaluation, both by ADEQ and EPA, and there has been no credible scientific evidence that this farm caused harm to the Buffalo River. That fact cannot be overlooked.
We commend brothers Richard and Philip Campbell and their cousin Jason Henson for their stewardship and efficiency, which made them one of the most productive swine producers in the region.
Arkansas Farm Bureau’s mission when founded in 1935 was to advocate for the interests of farmers and ranchers, and we will continue our efforts based on that honorable objective.