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Defending America's First National River

Buffalo National River is one of the few remaining undammed rivers in the lower-48 states.

Buffalo National River is one of the few remaining undammed rivers in the lower-48 states.

Photo courtesy of Seth Anderson

What's at Stake

Buffalo National River is one of the few remaining undammed rivers in the lower-48 states. The river watershed is home to over 300 wildlife species. A popular camping, canoeing, and fishing destination, the river attracts more than one million visitors a year.

Case Overview

A coalition of conservation and citizen groups, represented by Earthjustice, are challenging the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency and the U.S. Small Business Administration for their inadequate review and improper authorization of loan guarantee assistance to C&H Hog Farms, a 6,500-pig factory farm located on a major tributary of the Buffalo National River, a national park site and the country’s first national river. The facility, C&H Hog Farms, is under contract with Cargill, an international producer and marketer of agricultural products.

Designated in 1972 by President Richard Nixon as America's first national river, the Buffalo National River travels freely for 135 miles and is one of the few remaining undammed rivers in the lower 48 states. The river watershed is home to over 300 species of fish, insects, freshwater mussels, and aquatic plants, including the endangered snuffbox mussel, the endangered Gray bat, and the endangered Indiana bat. A popular camping, canoeing, and fishing destination, the Buffalo National River attracts more than one million visitors a year.

The Farm Service Agency and the Small Business Administration guaranteed 97 percent of the loans received by C&H Hog Farms to construct and begin its operation of a swine factory farm in Mount Judea, Arkansas. The facility’s two barns confine 6,500 pigs, making it by far the largest of six existing animal operations in the Buffalo River Watershed. The estimated two million gallons of waste produced by the C&H facility are being spread on land lying along a tributary of the Buffalo National River.

The C&H facility’s loan guarantees were issued in the winter of 2012. Because of a failure to notify local residents, however, the community in and around Mount Judea did not find out about the facility until after it had been built. The lack of adequate public notice is just one of a number of egregious failures on the part of the state and federal government to ensure that this facility will not have detrimental impacts on the exceptional natural resources of the Buffalo River watershed.

Earthjustice, Earthrise Law Center, and local attorney Hank Bates are representing the Arkansas Canoe Club, Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, National Parks Conservation Association, and The Ozark Society in filing this complaint against the USDA and SBA.

Case Updates

December 2, 2014 | Legal Document

Decision: Buffalo River CAFO

Issued by U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Arkansas D. Price Marshall.

October 25, 2013 | In the News: NewsOK

Environmental groups file suit over Arkansas Hog Farm Loans

Earthjustice filed a lawsuit on behalf of four environmental groups, citing the government of inadequately approving loan guarantees for the construction of a hog farm near Mount Judea, Arkansas. The environmental groups claim that the Agriculture's Farm Service Agency and the Small Business Administration fail at considering the negative impacts this farm will have on the environment.

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