ARK, thru legal council, has issued FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests to several agencies, which include USFWS (United States Fish and Wildlife Service), FSA (Farm Service Agency) and SBA (Small Business Administration). The requests are for public information for loans granted the last 2 years to expand the Poultry Industry mega houses, those that are designed to contain 30,000 plus chickens at a time for 6-8 weeks. The request has been narrowed down (in some requests) to Izard, Sharp, Randolph, Stone, Independence , and Fulton counties and as of 6/22/2016, only partial responses have been received. In the case of the USFWS, the response for one farm in particular did not contain the current information for the action that is currently in the approval process. The USFWS confirmed this is their final response. Interesting that our requests from other agencies have USFWS documents from this year that were not included in their response.
At least one Bank has placed in the Legal section of a local newspaper that a Draft EA is available for review, but when people went to the Bank and requested to to see this document, it was not available or presented. Reluctantly, the Bank did show a FSA form RD1940-20 (Request for Environmental Information), there was no signature on the document and at a glance it looked like some of the information was incorrect. The Banker used the excuse that it was in Draft form but that the FSA form was an EA. This is not the case as the EA has much more detail and information not included on the form presented.
As more information is reviewed, the process appears to be deeply flawed. For example, a part of the FSA package contains a document which is called CNMP (Comprehensive Neutrient Management Plan) completed by the County Conversation District. Soil and litter samples are analyzed prior to the issuance of the plan. The plan does not have to be followed, it is only a recommendation and there is no enforcement or verification performed to insure the plan is followed.
A letter is sent from the Bank/FSA to the USFWS with the subject, “Request for Concurrence”. The letter outlines why it is believed that the determination of the proposed project “may affect, but not likely to adversely affect” the endangered species in the subject area should be agreed to. The USFWS most generally issues a concurrence determination letter agreeing that the project “may affect, but not likely to adversely affect” endangered species. In the event the determination response does not say “may affect, but not likely to adversely affect ” but instead says, “may affect” or “is likely to adversely affect”, this should trigger a Formal Consultation request, which must be requested by a Federal Agency (in this case the FSA). The Formal Consultation is called a Biological Assessment (BA) which provides an in-depth evaluation of the proposed project effects. For the first time, an in depth examination at things like water quality and quantity, cumulative effects, and other things are studied. Again, a BA has never been done on any Poultry project.
About the only requirement from the state of Arkansas appears to be just one thing, a permit issued by the ADEQ (Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality). The permit is for only one purpose, construction (soil disturbance). Details of how SWPPP (Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan) are to be implemented is provided, thru the use of silt screens and pigs to eliminate rain runoff from entering our rivers and streams, including storm drains. There is no permit required that can be found for other aspects of the project, inspections of the structure, placement of birds, etc. Additionally, the ADEQ codes are incorrectly applied to numerous facilities having nothing to do with Poultry. This coding accuracy failure prevents quick searches of how many Poultry Farms have been permitted in the database.
There are other areas that cause concern. As time permits and as things come to light, those aspects of the process will be posted.