A proposed ban on new controlled animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in the Buffalo River watershed was on the agenda in Public Health today, but the committee decided not to take action today. They’ll instead take up the matter in a joint hearing with the Agriculture committee. No date has been set; it will likely be a full-day hearing with testimony from both sides.
The new rules, proposed by the Arkansas Public Policy Panel and the Ozark Society, would prohibit the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality from issuing new permits to swine operations in the watershed with 750 or more swine weighing 55 pounds or more, or 3,000 or more swine weighing less than 55 pounds. The ban would only apply to new operations, and would have no impact on C&H Hog Farm, the controversial CAFO near a major tributary of the Buffalo River.
Normally the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality initiates the rulemaking process, but it is possible for a third party to do so. The Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission granted petitions from the Panel and the Ozark Society to begin the rulemaking process back in April, which have now gone through public comment.
The rules have to go through review in the Public Health committee, the Rules and Regulations committee and finally Legislative Council. Lawmakers have previously told the Times that they believed the ban wouldn’t have trouble getting through the legislature, but it looks like things got stuck in Public Health. One big factor: some thought the Farm Bureau would stay on the sidelines, but they have come out against the ban. A representative from the Farm Bureau spoke against it today.
The joint Public Health and Ag meeting will be a doozy.