MARYVILLE, Mo. — While emphasizing that he does not oppose confined animal feeding operations and other forms of industrialized production agriculture, Nodaway County Health Center Administrator Tom Patterson said last week that a CAFO bill headed for Gov. Mike Parson’s desk removes a significant amount of local control.
The measure, known as Senate Bill 391, will bar counties and other local governments from passing stricter CAFO regulations than set forth by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources or other state agencies.
Nodaway County has had a Health Center ordinance on the books since 2006, and Patterson said a number of provisions, including those addressing setbacks, air quality and effluent/manure handling, will have to be rolled back when SB-391 is signed into law.
For example, the smallest class of CAFO under existing county rules — one holding between 300 and 999 animal units, a designation equivalent to one feeder cow or 2.5 pigs weighing more than 55 pounds — would require a quarter-mile setback from neighbors along with installations notification.
Under state guidelines, no setbacks are required for the smallest CAFOs, Patterson said, and neighbor notification is not necessary.
He added, however, that state setbacks and notice requirements more closely resemble county guidelines for larger operations.
A second difference between the two sets of regulations applies to handling manure. Patterson said the county ordinance requires operators to be responsible for the elimination of waste by acquiring sufficient land over which to spread it.
DNR rules, on the other hand, allow operators to qualify for “export only” permits that allow waste to be removed from the CAFO site and disposed of by a second party. Patterson said export-qualified CAFOs no longer bear responsibility for the animal waste once it has been removed.
“It takes the responsibility away from the operator,” said Patterson, who noted that raw CAFO effluent is not the sort of manure purchased in bags at farm and home stores, but contains “vomit, blood and pathogens.”
In addition, existing county regulations, Patterson said, contain provisions for soil testing and acreage requirements for the spreading of waste. They also set forth stricter slope requirements than those imposed by DNR in order to contain excessive runoff.
Going the waste export route also significantly streamlines the permit process, Patterson said, and allows larger CAFOs to operate on smaller parcels of land.
But beyond easing CAFO restrictions, Patterson said SB-391 violates the principle of local control, which in other areas, such as public schools, state legislators normally hold sacrosanct.
“I think that on any issue it’s important for local governments to have some oversight ability over industry,” Patterson said. “These are not family farms with pitchforks; they are industrial farms.”
Patterson took issue with the legislation’s “one-size-fits-all” approach, arguing that “each area of the state is unique,” and that broad rules won’t be appropriate to regions with differing needs and characteristics.
He further stated that a single 5,000-hog CAFO could potentially generate as much manure and effluent as the City of Maryville’s volume of human waste, the treatment of which required construction four years ago of a new $13.7 million wastewater purification plant.
Patterson said that, as he understands the new regulations, a CAFO could be installed on private land adjoining Mozingo Lake Recreation Park, whose 1,000-acre reservoir serves as the city’s primary water supply. He also expressed reservations about what he fears are reduced air-quality standards under SB-391.
According to the Associated Press, late changes made to the bill in the Senate require that liquefied manure from CAFOs be applied a minimum of 300 feet from public drinking water lakes and 100 feet from streams.
Finally, the county’s chief public health official said the proposed law substitutes operator bonding requirements meant to provide funds for the cleanup of closed facilities with a CAFO fund that would be used to mitigate issues arising from abandoned installations.