Editorial: Missouri CAFO confusion
By Marg Land
If the latest newspaper headlines
are anything to go by, the state of Missouri is now closed to any new
livestock production facilities.
If the latest newspaper headlines are anything to go by, the state of Missouri is now closed to any new livestock production facilities.
In late August, an associate circuit judge in Missouri’s Cole County Circuit Court made a decision that has left that state’s livestock producers fuming and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources considering an appeal.
The issue? A hog producer in central Missouri wanted to expand his existing operation and house 4,500 pigs on property he owns about two miles from the Village of Arrow Rock (population 79), a national historic landmark along the banks of the Missouri River. The property’s neighbors and surrounding community weren’t enamored with the idea, fearing the operation would discourage tourists from visiting the site. Despite this opposition, Missouri’s Department of Natural Resources approved the operation’s construction permit, which met all of the legal requirements. As a result, several community organizations filed a lawsuit against the DNR, arguing the department was obligated to protect state parks, such as Arrow Rock.
It would appear the judge agreed with them. In the resulting decision, the judge ruled that no CAFO, including the farmer’s proposed operation, be allowed within a 15-mile radius of the village and other nearby historical sites. As well, the judge ruled that “no CAFO can transport, spread or otherwise deposit or dispose of any waste from its operation” within that same buffer zone.
“It basically knocks out CAFOs in the state of Missouri,” state DNR director Doyle Childers is quoted as saying in the Joplin Globe newspaper,
He added that even though the judge’s decision only involved Cole County, the DNR is mandated to treat all counties the same – no permits in Cole County means not permits in all of Missouri.
As of press time, there was still confusion over what this decision actually means to Missouri livestock producers, manure handling and applicator companies operating in the state and even the individual livestock farmer who had applied for the original permit – after all, his existing hog operation is within that new, court-imposed 15-mile zone, along with nine other CAFOs and a research facility.
The Missouri Department of Agriculture’s position is that it’s “business as usual” for state farmers. “Although this narrow ruling raised eyebrows and got our attention, we advise farmers that it is business as usual for Missouri agriculture and have encouraged the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to take action with an appeal,” stated MDA director Don Steen in his monthly director’s column.
In a press release, the MDA suggests that farmers not named in the lawsuit “continue to conduct business in their usual manner.”
I suggest it’s pretty hard to stay in the livestock business if you can’t transport or spread manure. It’s also difficult to plan for the future if there’s uncertainty over whether you can obtain a permit from the local regulating body, in this case, the Missouri DNR.
As one producer so eloquently put it in a Marshall Democrat-News article, “If you can’t spread your manure, then you can’t have hogs. We’re basically out of business.”
Hopefully, the Missouri DNR will soon have its legal team ready to appeal this verdict, the sooner the better.