County CAFO regulations under fire in Missouri Senate

A proposed bill in the Missouri Senate would not allow counties to pass CAFO regulations that are more strict than state rules. The Cooper County Public Health Center board passed one last year.


By Brendan Crowley / Boonville Daily News

via The Mexico Ledger (MO) - Mar 6, 2019


JEFFERSON CITY — There’s no winning when a county considers regulating confined animal feeding operations, Cooper County Commissioner Don Baragary told the Missouri Senate Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources Committee on Tuesday.


A group of lawmakers in Jefferson City want to roll back county-level regulations, arguing the large operations, commonly called CAFOs, are regulated enough by state and federal governments and local rules are bad for business.


Residents near the site of a proposed hog operation in southern Cooper County sought county-level health regulations last year, because they feared the Missouri Department of Natural Resources wasn’t doing enough to control waste and odor.


The Cooper County Commission decided not to pass regulations but the Cooper County Public Health Center Board did. Both are facing lawsuits over their decisions, and a court order has stopped enforcement of the health board’s rules.


“In our case, it’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario,” Baragary said.


Bargary spoke during a hearing on a bill filed by Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, that would keep county commissions and health boards from adopting regulations on CAFOs that are more restrictive than state law.


The committee didn’t vote on the bill after the Tuesday evening hearing, but several members of the panel, which Bernskoetter chairs, expressed support.


County-level health regulations have been a popular tool for Missouri communities to put extra restrictions on the large animal farms, called CAFOs. Cooper, Pettis and Howard counties are among the 20 Missouri counties with their own CAFO health regulations, according to MU Extension.


The bill will promote jobs, economic development and food security, Bernskoetter said during the crowded hearing.


The bill faces a long road to passage. The hearing was the first step; the committee must vote and the bill must find time for debate on the Senate floor before moving to the House.


Fred Williams lives in southern Cooper County near the proposed site of the Tipton East CAFO. Williams and his mother, Susan, have been leading the opposition to Tipton East by challenging its operating permit, using testimony of an expert who said the soil and geology of the area makes Tipton East a high risk for polluting groundwater.


Groundwater is the only water available in the rural area of southern Cooper County. There’s no public water supply, so everyone draws their drinking water from wells. The Department of Natural Resources doesn’t have any teeth to protect them, Williams said in an interview.


He said the expansion of the Valley Oaks cattle operation in Lone Jack is a perfect example. After Valley Oaks expanded to 1,900-head of cattle, the Administrative Hearing Commission ordered the CAFO to stop expanding and revert to 999-head.


″(Valley Oaks) said, ‘Stop us,’ and they continued to bring in more and more cattle in their facility,” Williams said. “DNR had no teeth, no way to stop them.”


Local governments need to be in control of their own counties, Williams said.


“How can this one senator and this committee go in and strip away what 20 other counties have already set in place?” Williams questioned. “They’re overreaching.”


Bernskoetter argued his bill doesn’t restrict local control.


“It simply says an ordinance can not be more stringent or inconsistent with existing laws and regulations,” he said.


CAFOs are a big investment, and allowing local regulations increases the risk, Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst said in an interview.


County-level CAFO regulations a generally proposed after someone applies for...


Cooper County conundrum ... 


more, including links