LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Operators of a large hog farm near the Buffalo River that's drawn concern about its potential impact on the watershed have agreed to shut down their facility in exchange for $6.2 million from the state and a private group, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Thursday.
Hutchinson, a Republican, said the state signed an agreement with the operators of the C&H Hog Farm and will receive a conservation easement that will permanently prohibit similar farming operations on its site. The 6,500-hog farm in Vendor, about 95 miles (153 kilometers) northwest of Little Rock, has been the source of controversy since it was permitted several years ago.
"It has always been my highest priority to protect the Buffalo River and to assure it as a national treasure far into the future," Hutchinson said in a speech to the Arkansas Municipal League. The governor added that the farm's operators had obtained the permit fairly and had not done anything wrong, but "the state should have never granted that permit for a large-scale hog operation in the Buffalo River watershed."
Attorneys for the hog farm did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Hutchinson said the bulk of the money for the facility's shutdown will come from the state, with other funds coming from the Nature Conservancy. A breakdown of the funding was not immediately released Thursday and was not spelled out in the agreement.
In November, the state ruled the farm could no longer operate because of concerns that the waste it produced was contaminating the nearby Big Creek and Buffalo River. But that decision remains stuck in a legal fight .
The shutdown will occur over the next few months, Hutchinson said. He also said the state will make permanent a temporary ban on large hog farms in the Buffalo River watershed.
"If you look at the future, while we want to have farming operation, we also want to protect the Buffalo River watershed from those large-scale operations that will endanger a national asset," Hutchinson said.
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