A lawsuit over the Cooper County Health Boards concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) regulations will be put on hold until a state law banning county CAFO regulations takes effect at the end of August.
Circuit Judge Robert Koffman on Monday indefinitely extended his order barring the Cooper County Health Department from enforcing the regulations the board passed last year and scheduled another hearing for Sept. 28. Koffman first halted the regulations after a group of 100 area farmers and landowners sued the health board, arguing it didn’t have the authority to pass the regulations and that it violated the state’s Sunshine Laws.
A bench trial in the lawsuit was originally set to begin in late July, with Koffman presiding. The court injunction would also have expired at that point. Brent Haden, the attorney representing the farmer and landowner plaintiffs, asked Koffman to postpone the trial until after Aug. 28, when state laws passed this year go into effect.
Haden argued the new law, put into effect by Senate Bill 391, will wipe out the Cooper County regulations. Moving the trial until after the law goes into effect would save everyone the time and money of having two trials over the same regulations, Haden argued.
The judge told Haden his order barring the health department from enforcing its regulations would stay in effect until he decided otherwise, and he wouldn’t make a decision on that without another hearing.
The Missouri General Assembly passed Senate Bill 391 in May. The new law states that no county can make regulations for large livestock operations that are more strict than or inconsistent with the state’s.
The bill’s sponsor, State Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, said the law is intended to wipe out existing county-level regulations. Advocates for stricter regulations on CAFOs hope the courts will determine the law does not include existing regulations, which will be allowed to stand.
The Moniteau and Cooper county health boards are each considering changes to their regulations before the new law goes into effect, hoping they won’t become void at the end of August. The Cooper County Health Board will be discussing possible changes to the regulation it passed last year at its meeting on July 9, Board President Patty Dick previously said.
Moniteau County doesn’t have CAFO regulations, but the Health Board considered passing some at a meeting in California last week. The proposed Moniteau regulations were copied almost verbatim from the regulations Howard County voters approved at the ballot last August, said Moniteau County Health Department Environmental Specialist Darrell Hendrickson.
The regulations 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.
The board tabled the proposal after pushback from area farmers. It put together a working group, including three people in favor of CAFO regulations, three opposed, Hendrickson and health board member Carlene Petree. That group will meet to look for a compromise before the board meets again in July.
If Moniteau County passes the regulations, it would join Cooper, Howard, Pettis and 17 other counties with their own CAFO ordinance.