Courts will decide whether existing county ordinances stand, but if Moniteau County doesn’t have one by Aug. 28, it definitely won’t be able to pass one, said Moniteau County Health Department environmental specialist Darrell Hendrickson.
CALIFORNIA — The Moniteau County Health Board tabled discussion of a CAFO ordinance after local farmers packed its meeting Monday to share their concerns.
The proposed regulation would require any operation with more than 300 animal units -- equal to 1 beef cow or 2.5 hogs over 55 pounds -- to get a permit from the county in addition to the permits required by the Department of Natural Resources. It would also impose setback requirements on anyone spreading manure from a CAFO, and require surety bonds for manure storage systems.
Only 50 people were allowed in the small room at the Moniteau County Health Center, with several standing in the doorway and along the wall. More people stood outside and listened through open windows during the hour-long meeting.
The board tabled a vote and instead expanded a group that has been researching the ordinance so it will include three people on each side of the debate. That group will try to find a compromise before the board’s July meeting.
The General Assembly in May banned counties from passing CAFO regulations stricter than state rules. The law takes effect Aug. 28, so Darrell Hendrickson, environmental specialist for the Moniteau County Health Department, wanted to get a rule on the books before then.
Courts will decide whether existing county ordinances stand, but if Moniteau doesn’t have one it definitely won’t be able to pass one, said Hendrickson. The board needs to give him clear direction by Aug. 1 so he can publish required notices, he said.
The Missouri Constitution prohibits lawmakers from passing “retrospective” laws, meaning a law can’t affect what happened before it was passed. The Missouri Supreme Court ruled in a 2003 case that criminal laws can be changed retrospectively, but not civil laws.
The proposed regulation in Moniteau was taken “almost verbatim” from an ordinance approved by 58 percent of Howard County voters last August because Hendrickson wanted to be consistent with other ordinances in the area, he said.
“Howard County had been voted on by the people, and we thought it looked like something that could be usable for us,” Hendrickson said in an interview.
Moniteau County is home to several poultry CAFOs and hog CAFOs. They would be grandfathered in, but the new rules would apply if they tried to expand or significantly change their operation, said Hendrickson.
“It’s not gonna affect the common cow-calf operator guy that’s got 160 acres and 40-odd cows running on it,” Hendrickson said.
One of the Moniteau group’s main concerns is a lack of regulations for people who apply manure from export-only CAFOs. The new state law added setback requirements that do not allow applicators to spread manure closer than 30 feet to a property line, 300 feet to a drinking water source or 100 feet to a stream.
Hendrickson said those aren’t enough. The Howard County ordinance, and the Moniteau proposal, bars the liquid manure from being spread closer than 1,000 feet to any water source or building that existed before the CAFO.
“We felt very passionately that waste needs to be regulated, no matter who applies it,” he said.
The ordinance would also require a surety bond for the manure storage system of any operation with the equivalent of over 1,000 head of cattle, which would be used to cover possible cleanup expenses if something went wrong..
“That does have an inherent cost to the person operating this, but is that cost worth the protection it provides?” Hendrickson posed.
Some audience members raised concerns with CAFOs, including pathogens in the air and water caused by the concentration of manure. Others said some operations, like the Tipton East proposal near Clarksburg, are owned by out-of-state companies that don’t have the same connection to the community as local farmers.
Opponents of the rules said the ordinance addresses a nonexistent problem and places a burden that could keep young people from staying on the farm.
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are a growing concern for Tim O’Connor, a Prairie Home pediatrician. Studies in North Carolina and Iowa have shown higher rates of MRSA and asthma in people who live or work near hog CAFOs, he said.
“We need to watch these things and put in place the ability to monitor it, instead of turning it over to the company that has an interest in not seeing what it doesn’t want to see,” he said.
Davin Althoff, who has a beef and grain farm in southern Moniteau County, said the board needs to consider the role of agriculture in the county’s economy before it passes any regulations.
Agribusiness supported 1,560 jobs in Moniteau County, totalling $52.2 million in income, and $8.2 million in state and local tax revenue, according to a 2016 study by MU Extension for the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council. It makes up nearly a quarter of the county’s workforce, according to the Missouri Department of Economic Development.
“A big part of those is county property taxes that fund the schools that my kids, and a lot of folks in here’s kids attend, the fire districts, ambulance districts,” Althoff said. “It provides a lot of the services that we really need in this county.”
Everyone in the room agrees that water quality is important, he said, but the ordinance isn’t going to solve pollution issues. The county isn’t equipped to regulate animal agriculture, unlike DNR, which has experts on staff, he said.
Andy Clay, a seventh-generation farmer in Moniteau County, said the ordinance was introduced with little to no public notice. He wouldn’t have known about it if a neighbor hadn’t gone to the health center to get a shot and seen it posted there, he said.
Moniteau County farmers take their role as stewards of the land very seriously, he said.
“We’re very happy to work with you all to see what we can do without an ordinance,” Clay told the board. “Let’s try to look at the bigger picture and not hinder the future generations.”
The proposed ordinance has been under discussion by a study group that includes Hendrickson, a health board member Carlene Petree and environmental activist Jeanne Hauser, said Hendrickson. They started looking at the issue after the Cooper County Health Board passed an ordinance in response to the Tipton East hog CAFO near Clarksburg. Hendrickson hoped to have more time to hold public hearings and talk to the community, but the process speeded up when lawmakers passed the new bill, he said.
At the end of the meeting, Board President James Canter asked for three people opposed to the ordinance and two who favor it to join the study group.
Canter wants the group to meet before the board’s July meeting to try to come to a compromise. The meeting produced constructive comments and a lot to think about, Hendrickson said. He doesn’t want the regulation to get in the way of good agriculture, but he also doesn’t want agriculture to damage air and water quality, he said.
“If there’s an alternative that doesn’t involve the regulation, I’m willing to listen,” he said.