Recent guest writers have attempted to vilify Arkansas Farm Bureau while questioning our involvement in the struggle to keep C&H Hog Farms in Newton County open and operating. The reason we are involved and continue to support this fight is simple: We speak for Arkansas farmers and ranchers, and we proudly stand up for those farm families who work hard to provide food for the rest of us, care for their land and animals, and play by the rules.
That is a precise description of the three young farm families who own C&H.
A wolf has come knocking on their door, and it comes in the form of the state of Arkansas, which is trying to shut them down. For no reason. With no violations noted. Not one single citation. Nothing, frankly, other than some very vocal folks who don't like where that farm is located and believe if they scream loud and long enough and clutter the conversation with falsehoods, they can make the farm go away. The state of Arkansas is spending taxpayer dollars on court costs, legal maneuvers and state agency effort to shut down this family farm.
Let's be very clear, this case is about the government's efforts to move these families off their farm without any credible scientific evidence that their farm has caused harm to the Buffalo River. A recent National Park Service scientific symposium, in fact, declared that its scientific data don't support the farm as the source of any degradation of the Buffalo River.
Let me explain where I'm coming from and why I feel so strongly about these families. I grew up on a small hill country farm in east-central Mississippi. It is like much of Arkansas in many ways. I went to school at Mississippi State to become a mechanical engineer, because at the time I thought I couldn't wait to get away from farming.
The early 1980s was a difficult time in agriculture, with a trade embargo, droughts and financial liquidity a real problem for farmers nationwide. At that time, a wolf came to our door in the name of the Production Credit Association. Money had been borrowed based on overly inflated land values, and when those values plummeted in the early '80s, our farm was in a financial bind. There were two or three years when things were especially tight. My mother was teaching school, and my dad took a side job doing survey work for the Soil Conservation Service to help make ends meet.
They fought and struggled to stay on that farm. I watched my mom and dad swallow their pride, hold their heads up, and demonstrate integrity and dignity through the way they carried themselves. I saw my dad age about 15 years in the span of less than three. Ultimately, they survived, and thankfully we still have most of that small farm in our family today.
While watching them struggle, I decided what I really wanted to do with my life was to help farmers like my mother and father. I changed my degree to agricultural economics, earned a graduate degree in that same subject, and moved to Arkansas in 1987 to work for the Farm Bureau.
That brings me to this hog farm and the three families who operate it. They are being unfairly attacked because they are trying to make a living at home on their farm, which consists of two barns and two waste lagoons. It is a family farm, certainly not a factory, despite what one breathless columnist might call it.
This issue is about Jason and Tana Henson. This is about Phillip and Julie Campbell. This is about Richard and Mary Campbell. About six years ago, they went to the state of Arkansas and applied for an operating permit. The state of Arkansas gave it to them. As a result of that, they took out a significant loan, pooling their assets and offering those as collateral for their family hog farm in Newton County. They set about doing things the right way, implementing practices to ensure they protected the environment and posed no threat to any water system or environmental condition anywhere around them.
I can only imagine what those three families are going through now, with the wolf at their door. I imagine it's very similar to what my mom and dad went through 35 years ago. You see, this is about two brothers and a cousin and their efforts to use their farm within the parameters of the law, as defined by the state. That's why we are going continue to stand by these young farm families and this family farm.
It's personal to me.
Warren Carter is executive vice president of Arkansas Farm Bureau, the state's largest agricultural advocacy organization.
Editorial on 05/16/2019
Print Headline: It's personal