The debate over concentrated animal feeding operations in Cooper County has transitioned from the farm, to the boardroom, to the courtroom, and it doesn’t seem that the compiling grievances will be resolved anytime soon.
Two technically unrelated, yet seemingly opposing cases are underway in Cooper. A civil case in regard to the Cooper County concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) near Clarksburg was filed at the end of September after a prior case was brought against the Cooper County Commission by Opponents of Cooper County CAFO in April. The subsequent case was brought by Nathan Alpers of Prairie Home, as well as a large group of area landowners against the Cooper County Board of Health.
The OCCC case focuses on alleged Sunshine Law violations by the county commission, claiming commissioners illegally met with industry representatives without first posting a public notice.
Alpers, and others, have sought an injunction against the county health board’s CAFO-related ordinance enacted Aug. 24 which farmers and others claim unnecessarily imposes on area farm operations. The injunction order was granted Oct. 5 as a temporary restraining order. The injunction, unless dismissed, is expected to last through July 2019.
Attorney Brent Haden has said the plaintiffs do not believe farmers can establish nutrient management plans before fall manure application.
The OCCC lawusit alleges the Cooper County Commission held a meeting and site tour Feb. 9 of the proposed Class 1C swine CAFO to be operated by PVC Management II LLC of Pipestone, Minnesota, with no advance notice to the general public. Parties who took part in the tour included the Missouri Soybean Association, Missouri Pork Association, University of Missouri Extension and the Cooper County Board of Health.
The Alpers suit is preventing the county health department from continued enactment of the Aug. 24 health regulation. The regulation specifically applies to Class 1 CAFOs. In the requirements of the regulation, it states Class 1 CAFOs, and anyone who receives manure from the operation to spread on their fields, must follow Missouri Department of Natural Resources statutes of manure storage designs as well as following the Missouri CAFO nutrient management technical standards.
Under the ordinance, process wastewater shall be knifed/injected into soil and it shall not be applied within 100 feet of an occupied residence or public-use area which existed prior to the date a Class 1 CAFO is fully operational. The 100-foot buffer will not apply to occupied residences owned by the CAFO.
The regulation passed by the health board went into effect prior to Aug. 28, when Missouri Senate Bill 627 was enacted. The bill states cities and counties cannot enact any laws related to seeds or fertilizers, which includes swine manure. Regulations in place prior to Aug. 28 were allowed to stand.
According to court documents, Nov. 5 motions to dismiss the injunction suit by lawyers Stephen G. Jeffery and Frank Robert Flaspohler, representing the Cooper County Health Center Board of Trustees and its members, were unsuccessful. A hearing in the case is scheduled 1:30 p.m. Nov. 26 before Judge Robert Koffman.
Jefferey also is representing OCCC in its case against the county. The last filing in that case was Nov. 8 with a certificate of service. Travis Allen Elliott is representing the Cooper County Commission in the OCCC case.
The CAFO at the center of these cases is Pipestone System’s Tipton East hog farrowing facility, which was issued a CAFO permit by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources this summer after months of heated debate within the county and members of the larger agricultural community. The permit allows the Minnesota-based company to open a 7,700-hog concentrated animal feeding operation on a 25 acre-property on Renshaw Drive in Clarksburg.
Pipestone System, based out of Minnesota, is among the nation’s largest hog producers with many facilities scattered throughout Iowa, Minnesota and beyond. CAFOs in those areas have been blamed for dangerously poor water quality that puts livestock and people at risk of disease. Cooper County opponents also listed fears of lost property value and diminished quality of life due to the odor Tipton East would exude. DNR found that while the odor would be noticable for nearby residents, Tipton East’s application met all necessary safety standards.