The Department of Justice won’t challenge a federal court ruling that the Department of Agriculture and the Small Business Administration violated environmental laws in providing loans to a large hog farm in northwest Arkansas.
The U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in Arkansas on Friday granted a motion filed by DOJ to withdraw and voluntarily dismiss the appeal.
In December, Judge D. Price Marshall in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas ruled that the agencies shouldn’t have provided $3.6 million in loans to C&H Hog Farms Inc., a 6,500-hog farm located near a tributary of the Buffalo National River (Greenwire, Dec. 3, 2014).
Marshall found that the agencies violated the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. SBA and USDA’s Farm Service Agency must now conduct new assessments to allow the lending.
"This outcome sends a strong message that federal agencies that are subsidizing and supporting industrial-sized concentrated animal feeding operations through loans and guarantees will have to follow NEPA and the ESA in the future," said Marianne Engelman Lado, an attorney with the environmental law group Earthjustice who represents a coalition of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, Arkansas Canoe Club, National Parks Conservation Association and Ozark Society.
SBA guaranteed about 75 percent of a $2.3 million loan from Farm Credit Services of Western Arkansas. FSA backed 90 percent of a $1.3 million loan.
"This is a truly significant victory, but the fight to remove C&H Hog Farms from the Buffalo River watershed goes on," said Dane Schumacher, Buffalo River Watershed Alliance board member. "Much damage could be done if C&H continues to operate in the watershed, and we intend to keep up the pressure to ensure that this ill-placed industrial hog facility never has the chance to foul Arkansas’ crown jewel and America’s first national river."