Lawsuit filed over loans for hog farm


LITTLE ROCK — A coalition of environmental activist groups filed a lawsuit Tuesday against two federal agencies over their issuance of about $3.3 million in loan guarantees to C&H Hog Farms, which operates on a tributary of the Buffalo National River in Searcy County.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Little Rock, argues that the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency and the U.S. Small Business Administration failed to conduct a proper environmental impact study of the area surrounding the farm, which has about 6,500 hogs.

The lawsuit asks the court to declare the existing environmental assessment unlawful, and that the loans to the farm owners be enjoined and new environmental assessments be conducted with the involvement from the National Park Service.

The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality in 2012 issued an operational permit to the farm.

“Local residents will suffer the most from this absurdly located factory farm,” Debbie Doss of the Arkansas Canoe Club in a news release. “Residents of Mount Judea will be exposed, downwind, to smell and adverse health effects of methane and hydrogen sulfide.”

Emily Jones with National Parks Conservation Association said the environmental groups tried to avoid taking the issue to court.

“FSA and SBA failed to provide the public notice and undertake the environmental review and consultations required by law, so we’re asking to set aside the loan guarantees and instruct the agencies to comply,” she said.

The other environmental activist groups involved in filing the lawsuit were the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, The Ozark Society and Earthjustice.

Jason Henson, president of C&H Hog Farms, did not immediately respond to a telephone call seeking comment Tuesday.