Despite bad weather that produced a tornado warning in nearby Altus last Tuesday, a standing room only crowd packed the community center in Denning to attend a Citizens Against AR River Valley Hog “Farm” (CAFO) meeting.
AR House Representative Sarah Capp said she and AR Senator Gary Stubblefield were both firmly against Coon Tree Farm building a 10,000+ industrial hog farrowing operation in Alix. In July, Coon Tree farm applied for CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) permit #5305-W with ADEQ (Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality) that is currently under review.
Capp urged residents against the hog farm to send public comments to ADEQ between November 1 and the end of the year “to make sure they know we don’t want it here.”
Franklin County Judge Ricky Bowman voiced opposition to building an industrial hog operation “anywhere in Franklin County. My concern is that it (hog farm) is not good for the local economy. If this hog CAFO is granted a permit, it will open the door for more industrial hog farms to move into Franklin County. It may only be one (CAFO hog farm) now, but there will be more,” he warned.
Bowman, also stressed that “no work has been done by Franklin County to promote the hog farm” and that he had “no-prior knowledge of the hog farm wanting to locate in Alix when the county road-crew fixed a flood prone road on the Hurst property” (where the proposed hog operation would be located.)
While the Quorum Court does not have jurisdiction over how a landowner uses his property, a general Resolution against the Alix CAFO will be voted on at the November Quorum Court meeting.
Capp also urged the cities of Altus, Denning and Ozark to enact Resolutions against the proposed hog CAFO. While a Resolution does not carry the legal weight of an Ordinance, Resolutions will show ADEQ how local officials feel about the hog farm locating in their area, she added.
Reasons for opposing the proposed hog CAFO range from pollution to the environment, loss of property values, damage to the local tourist industry from the stench, hog effluent running into a nearby drainage ditch that runs directly into the Arkansas River, contamination to Davis Lake and danger to fish and animals who live on the flood plain there.
Franklin County Quorum Court Justice Brian Lachowsky, who represents the Alix, Denning, Altus area, said his primary concern is the “millions of gallons of hog waste” stored on a flood plain that could potentially contaminate not only the local area but leech into the Arkansas River to contaminate cities and properties downstream. While the proposed plan calls for the hog barns to be built three feet above the 100-year flood plain level, hog effulgent will be stored in cement cisterns directly beneath the barn floor so a portion of these tanks will still be below flood level, he added.
Lachowsky also cited a study by Duke University in the North Carolina Journal that concluded communities located near hog CAFOs had a higher incidence of all-cause and infant mortality and noted that North Carolina has been spending millions of dollars to buy out industrial hog operations, so they can be moved out of the state’s flood plains.
“Industrial hog-CAFO’s are not good for the county or the state,” Lachowshy concluded.
Residents of an upscale subdivision with a private airstrip located less than one mile from the proposed hog farm are particularly upset and active in the campaign against it. Bob Shingledecker and his wife Cathy said they and their neighbors are firmly against the proposed location and noted that some neighbors in the area already have breathing problems that would only get worse with the pervasive stench of hog waste.
“They want to build this in my backyard! I have nothing against hog farming, but I am vitally interested in protecting the environment,” said Cathy Shinglebecker. She also noted that five homes nearby are dependent on three wells that could potentially become contaminated in a flood.
To illustrate the potential for flooding, pilot Bob Shingledecker showed an aerial photograph he took during a 2015 flood that showed the proposed location of the hog farm almost completely surrounded by flood waters.
Alix resident Peggy Hemming said, “If this hog farm permit goes through and we have flooding as we periodically do, a lot of us will have our water quality compromised and we don’t want that.”
Altus resident and former Quorum Court member Mary Jane Cains noted the stench caused by hog farms and said, “I think this is very bad for the tourist industry we are so dependent on. I like free enterprise and people to use their land to make a living, but not when it affects how other people make their living. This is totally wrong for our county and detrimental to industries already here.”
Hartman Mayor Rita Griffin, a vocal opponent of building an industrial hog farm in either Johnson or Franklin County said, “We are called the Natural State, but if this (hog farm) trend continues we will be called the Nasty State.” She also noted that the hog waste will be spread as fertilizer in flood prone areas in both counties and that hog waste smells much worse and lasts longer than chicken litter. “No one wants to live near that!” she added.
Anyone wishing to sign a petition or send a letter to ADEQ in opposition of the proposed hog farm site, (CAFO permit application #5305-W; Coon Tree Farm) can go to Citizens Against an Arkansas River Valley Hog “farm” on facebook for more information. The group also has pre-printed letters that can be signed and sent to ADEQ during the Public Comment period from November 1 to December 31, 2018.