Posted on Apr. 9, 2007
By Wally Kennedy
Joplin Globe

Supporters of local control over large animal farms hope a newly brokered version of Missouri Senate Bill 364 will not come up for a vote before the end of the legislative session.

Substitute CAFO Legislation Draws Critics

CAFOs at issue; Sen. Nodler: "I am not leaning toward voting for the bill"

Supporters of local control over large animal farms hope a newly brokered version of Missouri Senate Bill 364 will not come up for a vote before the end of the legislative session.

The substitute bill, crafted during the Legislature's spring break last month, offers increased state requirements over concentrated animal feeding operations in exchange for no county restrictions.

The bill also offers some protection to the state's federally managed lakes, such as Table Rock and Stockton, in that CAFOs would not be permitted within five miles of them. No protection was offered for state historic sites and state parks such as Roaring River, where local residents are opposing a 65,000-chicken CAFO.

State Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, said last week: "I have received support for the legislation from the Farm Bureau leaders in Jasper County, but I am also aware that rank-and-file members are not necessarily in favor of that bill.

"I doubt a majority of my constituents support that bill. Of course, they could continue to negotiate and come up with a future compromise. But, as this is stated now, I am not leaning toward voting for the bill."

He said the issue is more contentious in Southwest Missouri than in any other part of the state because of increasing urbanization and the growing concentration of CAFOs in the region.

Opposing interests

The Senate started debate last week on the substitute bill but did not reach a vote after two hours of discussion. It has been placed on the informal calendar, where it could be brought up at any time for a vote.

Rhonda Perry, program director for Missourians for Local Control, which opposes the bill, said there may be not be a vote.

"We feel there are a significant number of senators who do not want to have to vote on this, and that it is too late for a compromise from all the parties," she said.

Perry said senators are reluctant to vote on the bill because a vote against it would be perceived as a vote against agriculture while a vote for it would be contrary to what 'thousands of farmers and property owners across the state' want. She said the bill needs to be killed, and that work should begin now 'to pull together a group of all of the vested interests in this issue.'

But Chris Roepe, chief of staff for Sen. Charlie Shields, majority floor leader of the Senate, said last week, "We intend to get the bill back up for debate at some point."

About 400 supporters of the bill traveled to Jefferson City last Tuesday to back the new measure. The event was sponsored by the Coalition for Missouri Farm and Food Preservation, an alliance of 19 farm organizations.

"This bill represents the future for growth in the livestock industry in Missouri," Dave Drennan, executive director of the Missouri Dairy Association, said in a statement issued during the event. "Members of the General Assembly will be sending a clear signal to our producers on whether or not agriculture is wanted in this state."

Supporters of the bill say counties generally do not have the background and ability to regulate agriculture through county health ordinances.

The debate last Tuesday also was observed by Jim Reidel and members of the Friends of Roaring River, a group that opposes construction of chicken CAFOs in the river's watershed.

Said Reidel: "We are still finding it hard to understand why so many of our elected officials are more concerned about turning our state into a dumping ground for the likes of poultry, hog and cattle corporations, with little regard for family farms, lakes, rivers, trout farms and state parks."

Substitute version

Sen. Chris Koster, R-Harrisonville, offered the compromise after his original bill met with strong opposition from property owners adversely affected by CAFOs, county officials and groups such as Missourians for Local Control.

Koster's original bill would have eliminated local control of CAFOs and left most state regulations as they were. Under the substitute bill, supported by the Missouri Farm Bureau and a task force of the Missouri Association of Counties, the state departments of Agriculture and Natural Resources would create new state standards that would eliminate existing county health ordinances. Under the substitute bill, county commissions would be allowed to veto permits for the largest class of CAFOs.

But the deal that created the substitute bill is being challenged by the Linn County Commission in north-central Missouri, the first of 16 counties in the state to adopt health ordinances regulating CAFOs.

Also fighting the substitute bill is Bill Christison, president of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, who said: "This bill protects the rights of corporate agribusiness at the expense of the vast majority of independent family farmers and rural citizens. It should be voted down."

Charlie Kruse, president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, said last week that he believes the expanded state regulations, plus veto power over the largest feeding operations, should appease most county commissions.

"We each had to give up something that, ideally, we would not have had to," said Kruse, whose organization supports the repeal of county health ordinances.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Substitute CAFO legislation draws critics


The new, substitute CAFO bill also would:

Source: The Associated Press

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