On April 7, 2018, 17 people seated around a large table at the Omni Center in Fayetteville Arkansas exchanged ideas, options and information about ways to successfully remove threats to our rivers and their watersheds. Two additional participants communicated with the group via the Internet. Goals included finding common ground as we strive toward success, and ways to promote effective communication among different organizations. This luncheon meeting was in conjunction with the Public Meeting, What’s Next for our Buffalo River, held at Mt. Sequoyah in Fayetteville on the evening of the same day. For additional information on this evening event please see: http://buffaloriveralliance.org/event-2865333

Individuals and Organizations included:
·    Terry Spense* of Socially Responsible Agricultural Project (SRAP)
·     Ozark River Stewards
·    Buffalo River Watershed Alliance
·      Mulberry River Society
·     Rita Grifflin,* Mayor of Harman Arkansas
·     Kings River Watershed Partnership
·     The Ozark Society
·    The OMNI Center
·     White River Waterkeeper
·     NW Arkansas Worker Justice organization
·     Animal Legal Defense Fund
·     Peter Lehner,* attorney for Earthjustice
·     Kelly Hunter Foster* of Waterkeeper Alliance’s (Pure Farms, Pure Waters campaign)
·     Center for Biological Diversity
·     Friends of the North Fork and White River
* Note: These folks served on the panel or spoke at the evening event: What’s Next for Our Buffalo River.

Round table discussions repeatedly mentioned the need for our state government to establish a numeric nutrient requirement for our rivers and their tributaries. Nitrogen and phosphorus are often the culprit nutrients, which in excess endanger the ecologic health of our rivers. At present, the nutrient trading scheme of Regulation 37, which is being considered by the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission, has not been successful in other places, provides little accountability, and may give the impression that it is addressing the ecological concerns without insuring decreased levels of nutrients.

Support for rural communities and sustainable farming practices and policies was addressed by pro-family farming advocates. Essential to attaining this support is the network building of grassroots groups. Together we are better able to advocate for responsible and sustainable farming and environmental protections. Rita Grifflin was able to give us a first-hand account of her rural community of Hartman’s successful denial of a hog CAFO permit in her area. She continues to focus on protecting her community from being impacted by industrial scale facilities. Here the efforts of raising public awareness and networking are proving to be a formidable force against agricultural pollution and runoff. Remarkably, 90% of agricultural pollution is coming from factory operations, and hog CAFOs produce 60% of pork in Arkansas.

During our luncheon meeting, we were reminded of the rights of animals to humane treatment and conditions, while the increasing use of CAFOs limits their movement, interactions and basic comfort. And although we don’t like to think about the exploitation of our human resources, it’s important to consider their needs.  The NW Arkansas Worker Justice Organization supports Arkansas workers employed in food processing plants in our area.  The circle was complete as the round table discussion took us from concerns for the Buffalo River to sustainable farming practices, workers’ rights, animal rights and finally nutritious, sustainable food programs such as Healthy Food Alliance and Good Food Purchasing Program.
The ultimate goal of this luncheon meeting is to put together regional or statewide coalitions and join national networks of related groups. Together we will share our skill-sets and speak louder as we tackle issues on the state and national level. A coalition in Iowa, made up of 27 groups, was able to find a senator willing to work with them on closing damaging loopholes being used by industrial agriculture and other extractive corporations.  Presently the Iowa coalition is campaigning to establish a moratorium on CAFOs. We can do this too!

To establish and build such a coalition requires regular communication and ease of information exchange. It was suggested that we hire a facilitator to promote better communication and develop a solution plan. Terry Spense of Socially Responsible Agricultural Project (SRAP), and a veteran of coalition building suggested the three elements essential to building a successful group:

An open line of communication (for example, listserv, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Skype, Facetime)
• Regular Communication
• Unity of Vision

In closing our meeting, we reaffirmed our commitment to working together to save our state rivers and promote healthier farming practices. Our coalition will be called the Ozark Resources Watchdogs. Teresa Turk has volunteered to set up a listserv and build a Google Group to facilitate the exchange of information and provide updates. If you receive an invitation to join, please accept it.