- Associated Press - Friday, August 21, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A proposal to ban new hog farms in the Buffalo National River watershed is advancing to an Arkansas regulatory panel after an effort by opponents to kill the regulation they’ve said infringes on property owners rights was rejected.

The Arkansas Legislative Council approved the ban on new medium and large hog farms. The proposal is expected to go before the Pollution Control and Ecology Commission for a final vote next week.

The ban is a compromise among environmental representatives, the Arkansas governor’s office and some state lawmakers. Banning medium and large hog farms means no new facility could have more than 750 swine at the 55-pound level or more than 3,000 swine coming in below the 55-pound level.

The regulation was endorsed by voice vote after lawmakers rejected 21-20 a motion to disapprove the new rule. Independent Rep. Nate Bell told lawmakers he believed the rule violated the constitutional rights of property owners in the watershed. It would have no impact on C&H; Hog Farms that’s on Big Creek, 6 miles from where it meets the Buffalo River. Environmental groups have criticized the facility, saying that it potentially could pollute the river with hog feces kept in lagoons or spread out as fertilizer on the rough karst terrain in the area.

“It is arbitrary and emotional, without a basis in fact,” the Mena lawmaker told the panel. “Folks, if we set a precedent of governing on the basis of emotion, it is a dangerous precedent.”

Supporters of the five-year ban will give researchers time to monitor the impact of the C&H; Hog Farm on the river, which is a popular tourist spot.

Rep. Kelley Linck, who chairs the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee, noted there aren’t any pending requests for such hog farms along the watershed.

“It’s not like someone’s saying I want to do this with my land and we’re saying you can’t do it. There are no applications,” the Republican from Flippin said. “All we’re saying is let’s hold off on applications until the (University of Arkansas) finishes its five-year study.”

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Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo

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