Sen. Mike Bernskoetter's CAFO bill ready for debate
by Bob Watson and Liz Morales, News Tribune (MO)
April 7th, 2019
As Missouri state senators prepare to debate a bill limiting county officials' power to regulate concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) within their county boundaries, Moniteau County's commissioners last week got an earful about why they should have that power.
State Sen. Mike Bernskoetter is sponsoring a bill that would prohibit county commissions and county health center boards from making regulations for CAFOs that are inconsistent with — or more stringent than — any state law, rules or regulations relating to environmental controls that the state's Natural Resources Department manages.
That would change current state law, which gives county governments a say in how CAFOs operate.
"I think we need to have a statewide policy for agriculture," Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, told the News Tribune last week.
Jeanne Heuser, a retired technical information scientist who worked with the U.S. Geological Survey, told Moniteau County commissioners Thursday CAFOs present a number of health problems that should concern local officials — including being a potential source for air and water pollution.
CAFOs proposed for Mid-Missouri — including a site near Hatton in Callaway County and near Tipton in Moniteau County — would raise large numbers of pigs or hogs, then sell the animals to become meat products.
Animal waste creates ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and other chemical by-products that, Heuser said, can affect air and water quality.
In Iowa, she told the commissioners, 95 percent of the CAFOs involve raising pigs — and 30 percent of the workers in those facilities have developed some degree of respiratory problems.
Additionally, Heuser said, children are reported to breathe in 20-50 percent of the "poop" air, creating a much higher risk for exposure leading to asthma.
Pigs naturally carry several kinds of influenza that humans also can be affected by, Heuser told the commissioners, and those diseases are "pretty common in CAFOs and other animal facilities like that."
Bernskoetter agreed "odor is always a concern."
But, he said: "There's still going to be a process. The Department of Natural Resources is not going to approve them without a process."
The Sierra Club disagrees.
Member Jack Meizenbach, of Columbia, told the Senate's Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources Committee last month: "The track record of the Department of Natural Resources in regulating CAFOs is dismal, and DNR doesn't adopt rules for a specific place.
"The rule seems to be that any and all CAFOs get an operating permit — all that is necessary to receive an operating permit is to apply for one."
He cited two examples: