PROPOSE NOW, READ LATER: Rep. Mary Bentley told the D-G she needed more time to read an amendment she filed yesterday before commenting.


[Rep. Mary] Bentley said Monday evening she wanted to look over the amendment further before commenting on it but said she and others have tried to look into everyone’s concerns regarding the bill. — from the Tuesday Arkansas Democrat Gazette

When a state representative says she has to read an amendment SHE nominally filed before commenting on it, it speaks volumes about who’s really in charge of the bill to ease regulations on factory hog farms by switching permitting from the Department of Environmental Quality to the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission.

With environmentalists, Buffalo River champions and even the generally anti-regulation Gov. Asa Hutchinson unhappy about the hog manure bill, the Arkansas Farm Bureau has experienced a speed bump in its rush to pass the bill by Bentley and Sen. Gary Stubblefield.

Straight shooting has been in short supply, as the amendments tend to indicate. In the face of tough questioning and the plain language of the bill, Stubblefield had insisted for example that the NRC would be issuing permits when the bill clearly put the work in the hands of local conservation districts. And that was just the beginning.

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So now the Farm Bureau has allowed amendments to the bill that it says will add transparency and ensure no weakening of existing rules regarding the handling of liquid animal waste. (If that’s so, why is legislation neeeded?) Here’s the full Farm Bureau rundown on amendments, necessary the Bureau said because of “wildly inaccurate and baseless” criticism. I expect a response before long from opponents of the bill, who remain unassured.

This much hasn’t changed. If the bill didn’t make life easier for hog farmers, it wouldn’t be on the legislature’s agenda. If it didn’t present peril in every watershed in the state, environmentalists would be silent. The Farm Bureau doesn’t want the popular Buffalo River used to set a marker for clean water protection statewide. That’s why they are paying so much money to keep a factory hog farm spreading pig crap on fields and filling lagoons over the problematic limestone geology of the sensitive Buffalo River watershed. If you can get away with it on the banks of a Buffalo tributary, you can do it anywhere.