Missouri court overturns ruling on expanding an Arrow Rock hog farm

Tuesday, April 6, 2010 | 4:28 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — A Missouri appeals court on Tuesday overturned a ruling that blocked a proposed hog farm from expanding near Arrow Rock.

A Cole County judge blocked the farm from expanding so near the historic central Missouri village, but a three-judge panel of the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District dismissed the case because the permit required to expand the farm expired more than a year ago.

The Kansas City-based appeals court also ordered opponents of the farm expansion to pay court costs.

The Missouri Parks Association and village of Arrow Rock sued after state environmental officials granted a permit in 2007 for a hog farm to expand several miles from the historic central Missouri village. That permit expired in August 2008.

Cole County Judge Patricia Joyce in 2008 blocked a concentrated animal feeding operation from being located within 15 miles of the historic central Missouri village. She later narrowed the buffer to two miles and barred existing farms in that radius from expanding.

The parks association's president had not read the appeals court ruling when contacted for comment Tuesday. An attorney who represented Arrow Rock and the Missouri Parks Association has said the village set on Missouri River bluff is a national historic site that the Department of Natural Resources has a duty to preserve.

The Department of Natural Resources estimates there are more than 400 concentrated animal feeding operations in Missouri. Currently, larger livestock farms must be set off from public or inhabited buildings. The biggest farms have a 3,000 foot buffer zone.

The Missouri Farm Bureau, which sought to join the lawsuit but initially was denied, applauded the appellate court's ruling.

"We have thought from the start that it would be a dangerous precedent to let courts and judges regulate agriculture without any consideration of sound science and best management practices," Farm Bureau President Charles Kruse said.

Attorney General Chris Koster, a democrat who filed the appeal, said Missouri's agriculture industry would "grind to a halt" if judges drew their own buffer zones around farms.

"I am in favor of more protective buffer zones around state parks, recreational waterways, historic sites and other sites of cultural significance," said Koster. "However, creation of such buffer zones is the province of the Legislature and not the courts."

The appeals court also raised several other concerns about Joyce's ruling that it said would also could have been grounds to overturn her decision.

One was that the initial lawsuit was filed only against the Department of Natural Resources and did not include Gessling, who would have been affected by the outcome. Requests to join the case by the Missouri Farm Bureau and Missouri Cattlemen's Association also were denied.

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