JEFFERSON CITY – Local communities will no longer have control over policing the activities of large scale farming operations under a bill passed by the Missouri House May 14 and sent to Gov. Michael L. Parson.
Senate Bill 391 prevents county commissions or health boards from introducing ordinances covering concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) that are "inconsistent with or more stringent" than those in place at state level.
Business leaders have welcomed the passage of the bill, while opponents, including some small farmers, describe it as the stripping of local control over large livestock farms.
KTVO reported that Rep. Deb Lavender (D-St. Louis) on the floor of the House prior to the vote, said, "I’m not sure that the majority of farmers are in support of this. The majority of meat producers, maybe.”
The passage of the bill, introduced initially by Sen. Mike Bernskoetter (R-Jefferson City), was welcomed by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which described the legislation in a statement as giving "farmers an equal opportunity in every county to use today’s modern tools, technology and approaches to agriculture production."
It was introduced "in response to a patchwork of arbitrary and highly restrictive county ordinances written by non-experts which has stifled the growth of modern animal agriculture operations," according to the chamber.
“Our agriculture industry is one of Missouri’s greatest strengths, and a reliable state-level regulatory framework is the best approach for sustaining and growing that industry while maintaining necessary environmental protections, " said Daniel P. Mehan, Missouri Chamber president and CEO, in the statement.
He said the bill "balances environmental regulations based on sound science with the needs of our rural economies."
“By ensuring that farmers across all counties in Missouri have an equal and fair opportunity to utilize modern agriculture practices, this bill will help them remain competitive in the national and global marketplace," Mehan said.
In a recent op-ed for the Joplin Globe newspaper, Darvin Bentlage, a Barton County farmer and rancher, disagreed, arguing that "corporate lobbyists have successfully limited our rights to protect our families, water and air, and property rights in the court system, they have restricted the ability of our DNR to protect us from CAFOs and now they want to eliminate our last protection by taking away local control."
He added, ""They want it all and more, thus leaving us literally with no protections at all from permanent nuisances."