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Missouri CAFO Law Goes Into Effect, Regulation Moves From Local To State Control

A concentrated animal feeding operation consisting of black and white dairy cows all in a row, feeding from a trough.
U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service
A concentrated animal feeding operation consisting of black-and-white dairy cows all in a row, feeding from a trough.

The state of Missouri can begin taking over the regulation of large livestock operations from county and local representatives. 

A Cole County judge last week lifted a temporary injunction that had been blocking a law that transfers that regulatory power from counties to the state since last month.

Two Missouri counties, an environmental group and some farmers are suing to keep counties in charge of regulating concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs.

Initially, the court sided with those interests and put the law on hold. But now that ruling has been overturned and the law goes into effect immediately, even as the lawsuit proceeds. It is scheduled to be back in court in December.

Jeff Jones is a cattle farmer in Callaway County and a member of the group that is suing the state.

“We do have to defend the things we used to take for granted, such as local control, clean air and clean water,” Jones said. “And if we just look away and think, 'Oh, that’s not going to have an effect on us,' well, it’s here now.”

Jones said Missouri has 500 CAFOs operating within its borders. Neighboring Iowa, which did away with county control in 2010, now has more than 10,000.

“They are coming this way, and this is just the beginning of it. So if we can’t hold accountability to them, we are going to be polluted like Iowa streams and Iowa waters are now,” Jones said.

Supporters of the law, including the Department of Agriculture and the Farm Bureau, say the rules will make things fair for producers and neighbors, and will do a better job of protecting air and water. 

“The legislature corrected tremendous unfairness in the way farming was regulated across the state,” said Blake Hurst, president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, in a written statement. 

Jones said he and the other plaintiffs will continue their suit and try to restore counties’ power over the operations. 

“This isn’t over. This is just the beginning,” Jones said.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @JonathanAhl

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Jonathan is the Rolla correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.