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Lonesome Dove is an epic novel and a masterpiece in the television miniseries genre.

Augustus McCrae leaps from the pages and screen to charm and inspire with his cad's exterior and hero's heart.

But those were the 1870s. The old Texas Ranger and his buddies were driving cattle through the untamed American West. They didn't worry so much about disposing of their animals' leavings, whether along the trail or on the lush fields of Montana where they'd made the white man's first foray and claim.

State Sen. Gary Stubblefield of Branch, a Republican and west Arkansas farmer, deems Augustus a hero and role model. He and now-defeated Bryan King of Green Forest used to pal around the Senate calling themselves Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call.

One could do worse for role models. Rugged independence and down-deep compassion and integrity are hardly bad qualities.

But I speak of human character, not contemporary environmental policy.

Stubblefield also likes Rooster Cogburn; hence his bill to establish a True Grit Trail in western Arkansas.

That's a darned sight better bill than this one on hog poop.

There are more of us now than there were then. We live closer together than they did then. We raise a lot more hogs, and do so commercially, rather than household to household.

That's because we have a lot more eaters and a great many of them seem to like bacon and sausage and barbecue and ham and pork tenderloin.

Somebody must raise all those hogs for all those appetites. They're not going to do it in Silicon Valley or in Manhattan. So we'll do it down here. We're not squeamish. We'll sling the slop and hose the manure. It's honest work.

We'll feed the world.

But we can't just go around anymore letting people start up pig farms anywhere they want and then rinse off the waste any old way they please.

Well, we could, presumably, if Stubblefield's Senate Bill 550 passes.

Complaining as Gus might've about pointy-headed college graduates making rules for the real men on the ranch or farm, Stubblefield already has flown the bill out of the Senate Agriculture, Forestry and Economic Development Committee.

All the measure does is move the regulation of hog-farm permits from the Department of Environmental Quality, which has rules and procedures on such things and sometimes applies them competently, to a state Natural Resources Commission.

This Natural Resources Commission has no such procedures and presumably merely would "certify" applications that looked all right rather than grant formal permits designed to comply with federal Environmental Protection Agency policies.

The bill also says applicants could "waive" the current requirement that they make formal public notification as part of the application process.

The Natural Resources Commission would be required to meet in public. So anyone complaining under this proposed new system that several hundred hogs had moved in next door and that no one ever notified them such a thing was even in the works ... they should have taken off work and gone to that commission meeting that they were never informed of.

Stubblefield can complain all he wants about the pointy-headed college guys. But perhaps we ought to listen to the folks at Central Arkansas Water, which serves a couple of hundred thousand metro-area customers in Little Rock, North Little Rock and surrounding communities with some of the nation's best drinking water.

Here's the statement CAW put out over the weekend:

"SB550 presents a threat to the health and well-being of the people of Arkansas ... . [It] has the potential to expose some of the state's most important natural resources including public drinking water reservoirs to liquid animal waste. ...

"ADEQ's process is effective and fair. It balances the needs of swine and dairy farmers with the right of the public to a safe and clean environment. . . .

"SB550 would wipe out the current permitting process and oversight of these facilities, and gut current regulatory protections. Public notification requirements would be eliminated. Minimum distance setback from neighbors, streams and lakes could be lost. Subsurface investigation requirements to determine suitability for waste lagoons would no longer be required. Anonymous complaints would not be accepted or investigated ... .

"As a result, swine farms would operate in a much more permissive environment, and the prospect of liquid animal waste entering the water reservoirs of our great state would become a much greater threat."

Other than that, it's just a little ol' bill to try to help some people make a hardworking living without all that regulatory hassle.

Pork chops don't grow on trees, you know. Unless the trees are next door.

Stubblefield told me by email Sunday that, yes, Gus was his hero, but the backlash on this bill has him feeling lately a bit like Jake Spoon.

Jake Spoon got hanged for horse thievery. That's rather extreme.

Stubblefield deserves only to have his bill drubbed right out of the Capitol.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Editorial on 03/19/2019

Print Headline: JOHN BRUMMETT: Listen to the experts, Gus


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Archived Comments

  • PopMom
    March 19, 2019 at 6:36 a.m.

    Good column. Pig farms need to be located away from waterways. Many people's livelihoods depend on tourism. Nobody wants to canoe, swim or fish in pig poop.

  • RBear
    March 19, 2019 at 6:57 a.m.

    Knew the devil would be in the details. While it seemed "good" on the surface, as you dig through the bill as Brummett and Masterson have done you find the ugliness of it. Stubblefield's bill would take care of pig farms by shuffling the deck chairs around, supposedly creating "government efficiency." In reality, the senator from Branch is just moving it to an agency ill-equipped to handle technical matters. He also removes the formal public notification of the process which helps keep the public in the dark about changes.
    I'm sure some good pig farmers have set Stubblefield up with some good hunting or even pig, er Hog, tickets in Fayetteville.

  • Knuckleball1
    March 19, 2019 at 8:10 a.m.

    Good Article, John...!!1

    As normal you have written over the heads of many that read your column, just not sure that you can make it any easier... Might have to bring it down to the level of the Old 1st Grade Reader.... See Spot Run... lol

    March 19, 2019 at 8:47 a.m.

    I almost never agree with John --- but this time - SB 550 is a bad bill. It is designed to do an end run around the regulatory process that is supposed to protect our water quality. Even though ADEQ has made some questionable decisions, they at least have a working process and the expertise to evaluate the applications.

  • Jfish
    March 19, 2019 at 9:01 a.m.

    John, when I saw SB550 I was hoping you were going to write a column. Thank you and Emily Walkenhorst for bringing it to light. You hit the nail on the head. As our population continues to grow with no end in sight, nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment are the three biggest threats to our streams and we really need to do a better job of protecting all of our streams, not just the most popular recreational streams. Also, you would think that the Arkansas Farm Bureau would step up once in a blue moon and say the right thing on issues like this and the expanded use of Dicamba.

  • limb
    March 19, 2019 at 9:09 a.m.

    Thanks for highlighting representatives who bring a persona or character to what appears to them to be a wish fulfillment of city boy envy. This vacuous type will rig water from hell to his own

  • WhododueDiligence
    March 19, 2019 at 10:01 a.m.

    If his cattle drive trail crossed rivers downstream and downwind of huge concentrated pig farms, ol' Gus would NOT have been a happy camper.

  • GeneralMac
    March 19, 2019 at 10:16 a.m.

    As someone who once raised hogs, and have friends who still do, I never understood the rationale to locate a hog farm where the grain crops to feed hogs are grown FAR away and the land to spread the liquid manure is grass land.

    Take a drive thru the hog state of Iowa.

    Hog farms are located in the middle of corn producing areas and that liquid manure is INJECTED into the heavy, black soil in either spring or fall and the nutrients are absorbed by the corn crop that is planted shortly after.

    Keep the hogs in the traditional hog producing states.
    There ..IS..a reason those states have lots of hogs and their situations are TOTALLY DIFFERENT than Arkansas.

  • mozarky2
    March 19, 2019 at 11:06 a.m.

    Robert Bear, I am try sorry for referring to your mommy issues, and although I have never accused you of having a drinking problem, I just assumed your Dunning-Kruger Syndrome and your problems with anger management were due to meth.
    Now, please stop your lies about my employment, or give me a name of the person who told you the lie.

  • RBear
    March 19, 2019 at 11:14 a.m.

    Frank public records, but thanks for the "apology?" BTW, wrong context as always.