A Callaway County commissioner wants the county commission to pass a health ordinance that would put more strict regulations on concentrated animal feeding operations and could affect a proposed hog farm in western Callaway County.
Western District Commissioner Roger Fischer drafted a health ordinance that creates larger setbacks between concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, and populated areas than those required by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. The ordinance also regulates the distance between residences and the land where animal waste is applied.
Without planning and zoning laws, Fischer said Callaway County is an “easy target” for CAFOs. He said he is worried about the potential of a large-scale dairy farm coming to Callaway County to supply milk for Aurora Organic Dairy’s processing plant being built in Columbia.
“The western district of Callaway County elected me to do my best to anticipate and protect them from the types of things that I might deem could be harmful or pose a health hazard,” Fischer said.
Legal battles have prevented Callaway Farrowing, LLC, a subsidiary of Iowa-based Eichelberger Farms, from moving ahead on plans for a 10,000-sow breeding farm on 20 acres in western Callaway County. Those opposing the farm banded together to create Friends of Responsible Agriculture, a group that challenged the validity of an operating permit issued to Callaway Farrowing by DNR.
A court ruling in March blocked a third vote on a permit for the farm.
“As far as we’re concerned, we believe the Callaway Farrowing permit is gone,” said Shirley Kidwell, a member of the group.
The proposed ordinance would require CAFOs with at least 7,000 animal units to have a setback distance of 3/4 mile, or 3,960 feet, from a residence. DNR regulations stipulate the same size CAFO must have a setback of 3,000 feet. One animal unit for a hog operation is considered 2.5 swine weighing 55 pounds or more, or 10 swine weighing less than 55 pounds.
For populated areas, the setback increases to 2 miles. The ordinance adds ¼ mile for every 500 animal units above the 7,000 threshold.
Animal wastewater cannot be injected or knifed into land within 2,000 feet of a residence, according to the draft ordinance. The distance lowers to 1,000 feet for dry animal waste.
DNR’s land application rules only apply to permitted facilities that have control over the land where waste is applied, said DNR spokeswoman Renee Bungart.
“I don’t think we should subject people who already own land, some places multi-generational or century farms or rural subdivisions, to a situation where somebody can literally move in next door and set up a CAFO or spread their waste right up to the property line,” Fischer said.
Presiding Commissioner Gary Jungermann and Eastern District Commissioner Randy Kleindienst said they are keeping an open mind about the ordinance and are interested in forming a committee to review the health ordinance, but did not express outright support.
The commission voted in 2014 to form a committee to look into creating a health ordinance after Friends of Responsible Agriculture collected more than 1,300 signatures from residents in support of an ordinance, but no one signed up for the committee and the issue died among the commissioners.
Kleindienst, who called himself a private property rights advocate, said he’s against passing the ordinance in its current state.
“Anytime you give up property rights like that, you almost always never able to get them back,” he said.
Kleindienst said he has concerns that the ordinance would over-regulate the farms and potentially put the county in a legal battle, given Missouri’s constitutional amendment that guarantees a “right to farm.”
Friends of Responsible Agriculture President Jeff Jones said state regulations are too lenient. The health ordinance would make CAFOs more accountable, he said.
Jungermann said he’s waiting to see how residents respond to the ordinance before making his decision, but “so far hasn’t seen anything that’s factually driven” to back up the ordinance.
Fischer said there’s “solid scientific proof that harmful viruses and diseases are produced in CAFOS,” though they are typically contained within the CAFO’s grounds. He has specific concerns about antibiotic-resistant staph, which he said has been recorded in CAFOs.
Commissioners might also opt to place the ordinance on a ballot. Jungermann said another petition is being circulated in favor of the ordinance.
“I would be a fool not to let it go” on the ballot “if it’s done in the proper ways,” he said.
The Howard County Commission passed a health ordinance regarding CAFOs on Monday.
Howard County Presiding Commissioner Sam Stroupe said the ordinance to prevent a 6,000 sow operation from being built near Armstrong, a town of nearly 250 people, passed unanimously.
Fischer said he would like the commission to pass the ordinance before lawmakers potentially approves legislation that could limit county commissions’ abilities to pass health ordinances. The legislative session ends 6 p.m. May 12.
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