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7:32 pm CDT, Thursday, June 18, 2020 </span>
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A committee of Arkansas legislators voted to reject proposed rules that would permanently ban medium and large scale hog farms from the Buffalo River watershed.
The Legislative Council’s Administrative Rules Subcommittee on Wednesday disapproved the Arkansas Division of Environmental Quality’s proposed revisions to Rules Five and Six, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.
The moratorium would prohibit confined animal-feeding operations with 750 or more swine weighing 55 pounds (24.95 kilograms) or more, or operations with 3,000 or more swine weighing less than 55 pounds (24.95 kilograms).
Lawmakers were worried that the ban would create what Republican Sen. Terry Rice, called “a chilling effect” on agriculture in Arkansas.
“It’s not that we don’t want the clean water. It’s just the outcome of this is going to be detrimental to the next generation,” Rice said. “And they’re already under such a strain right now, you’re going to have some young farmers throw up their hands and go do something else.”
Environmental advocates fought to close C&H Hog Farms, which was located near the Buffalo River, over concerns about hog feces and other waste contaminating the water. The farm closed in January.
In 2014, the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission placed a temporary ban on new medium and large scale hog farms at the watershed. The moratorium was extended repeatedly, including a five-year extension granted in 2015.
“The permanent moratorium for large and medium sized confined animal feeding operations in the Buffalo River Watershed is designed to protect for generations to come one of our most important national resources,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Wednesday in an emailed statement to the newspaper.
The Buffalo River Watershed Alliance and the Ozark Society, an environmental organization, also backed the ban.
“I have to say, I was really disappointed that that committee can’t see how the Buffalo River is unique in this state,” said Gordon Watkins, president of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, in an interview Wednesday.
But the Arkansas Farm Bureau opposed the moratorium mostly because of the impact it would have on agriculture in Arkansas
“Our concern from our members and farmers across the state is, ‘Well then, which watershed is next?‘” Jeff Pitchford, director of state affairs for the Farm Bureau, said in an Wednesday interview.