A forum was held Wednesday (May 1) at the Fayetteville Public Library to discuss the Hog Farm that was approved near the Buffalo National River in Newton County.
The majority of the audience was opposed to the C&H Farm. The Walker Room was packed and the attendees overflowed to the outside hall.
The eight-person panel answered questions about the controversial hog farm. The panelists: Lioneld Jordan, Fayetteville mayor; Bob Cross, Ozark Society; Paul Lowrey, UA geologist; Sonia Houseman, ecologist; Tom McKinney, Sierra Club; Debbie Doss, chairman of the Arkansas Conservation Coalition; Gregg Leding, D-Fayetteville.
The moderator was Kyle Kellams, with KUAF.
John H. Pennington, a water quality educator, said the solution is for everyone to work together.
"Everybody sits around the table with different perspectives and addresses all of the issues within the watershed and comes up with an agreeable way to manage them so that you can protect water quality long term," Pennington said.
Gordon Watkins lives in Newton County about 15 miles from the hog farm. He said it will affect his farming business and tourism.
"We've already heard rumors of guests cancelling their bookings because of fears that the Buffalo River was going to become contaminated,” said Watkins. “Now whether or not those are realistic fears at these early stages it's hard to say."
The audience voiced concerns regarding the legality of its application process and environmental concerns.
Watkins said he knows the farmers who own C&H Farms and said they’ve received support from businesses.
"They are just good people trying to make a living but the state has allowed this way farther than it should have and particularly this location," Watkins said.
Some in the audience even mentioned boycotting Cargill, the agricultural conglomerate. The hog farm is locally owned but has a contract with Cargill, according to Watkins.
Pennington said the water quality of the Buffalo National River has been affected for years and said people shouldn’t point the blame on one aspect.
"Mostly, it seems like they've heard the most extreme message and not much of the other side, which is there may not be any impacts that are negative to the Buffalo River," Pennington said.
The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) is also planning a public meeting on the issue at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 8 at the Carrol Electric building in Jasper.