SEN. GARY STUBBLEFIELD: Passes bill to ease regulation of factory pig farms.

The Senate today approved Sen. Gary Stubblefield‘s SB 550 to transfer regulation of liquid animal waste from the Department of Environmental Quality to the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, a move hotly opposed by environmentalists.

Stubblefield disputed critics who say ANRC will have a sham permitting process and it will open the Buffalo River watershed to the proliferation of factory hog farms. Sen. Will Bond (D-Little Rock) said ADEQ was doing a better job enforcing water quality standards and urged that the process not be changed. “Let’s keep the state the Natural State,” he said.

Sen. Alan Clark (R-Hot Springs) was among the supporters of the bill and defended ANRC. But it was clear from his and other remarks that the move was meant to make life easier for animal farmers. “The easier we can make life for our small farmers” the better he said. He derided the “angst” felt by opponents of the bill.

Sen. Keith Ingram (D-West Memphis) noted that the plain language of the bill leaves regulation to local conservation district boards, not to the Natural Resources Commission. Local farmers regulate themselves, in other words. It’s not really true that ANRC approves waste disposal plans, he said. Only appeals of disapproval go to ANRC. Stubblefield insisted ANRC would issue all permits.

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The vote 25-5, with 3 voting present and 2 not voting. The roll call should appear eventually at this link.