A public notice about a proposed turkey farm caught my eye in last week’s classified ads. The legal notice said the farm would be large enough to qualify as a Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO).
Public comments were being sought by the U.S. Department of agriculture’s Farm Service Agency. I immediately thought of the giant hog farm that went up in Newton County a couple of years ago, so I headed to the local FSA to review the case.
You might remember that this past summer, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced a deal to remove the C&H factory hog operation from the Buffalo River watershed.
The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality approved the hog farm in 2013. The farm operated next to Big Creek, just 6.5 miles from where the creek goes into the Buffalo River. The owners of the farm – who Hutchinson stressed did everything above board and legal – were to receive more than $6 million in the deal.
My investigative reporter’s mind was spinning for a second last week. Had I stumbled onto something big? Could the proposed turkey farm in Madison County be another C&H?
With this in mind, I went to the FSA office thinking I might be on to something the public truly needed to know.
I was told that every animal farm that is built, even those that aren’t large enough for CAFO status, require a time for public comments about environmental impacts. The proposed turkey farm, it seems, is not out of the ordinary.
I was shot down before I even got started. The notice in the paper had to be run because operators of the farm were getting partial funding through the USDA’s Farm Loan Program. Even if a farmer wants to build a turkey operation completely with private funds, he or she would still need an environment assessment. Most lending agencies require it, as well.
Still, I read through the environmental assessment. The proposed farm will be built three miles north of Marble with access from Madison County Road 548. The farm will have four turkey houses, each 66-feet wide and 700-feet long.
According to the assessment, there will be 184,800 square feet of growing space. The farm proposes to have 63,100 turkeys per flock, with 3.5 flocks annually. All names were redacted from the paperwork, so I don’t know who the operator will be.
The nearest residential house will be a quarter-mile to the northeast. The nearest church is 2.24 miles to the northwest.
The Buffalo River is 21.3 miles away, with the Kings River just 1.62 miles to the southwest.
The assessment said, “The proposal should have no effect on either of these rivers.”
The turkey operation will take up 20 acres on the 409-acre farm.
The assessment said the USDA’s FSA has done research into potential affects to federally listed animal species; state historic preservation; consulted with American Indian tribes; and studied whether the property is on protected wetlands.
After a time for public comments – and if there are no issues – the next step, I was told, is that the operators will have to publish what is called a FONSI, which stands for “Finding of No Significant Impact.”
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The annual Christmas Parade sponsored by the Huntsville Chamber of Commerce will be this Saturday. See story on Page 1A.
The parade will begin at the Intermediate School at 5:30 p.m., wind its way around Polk Square, then head back to the school.
Also Saturday, the Kiwanis Club will hold its annual auction indoors at Carroll Electric. Details can be found on Page 1A. Proceeds will help take area students in need shopping at Walmart. Last year the club took nearly 200 kids shopping. The 2019 shopping will begin Thursday, then continue next week before ending on Friday, Dec. 13.