House rejects bill limiting county restrictions on big livestock barns

Wednesday, May 11, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:39 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 9, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri House narrowly defeated a bill Tuesday that would have made it more difficult for counties to impose restrictive ordinances on farms with large livestock barns.

Family farm activists and environmental groups applauded the 84-77 vote, which shot down a bill that already had been scaled back in an effort to try to pick up support. Opponents worried that it would take away control from local governments.

The bill had been backed by the state’s leading agricultural commodity groups.

Legislative supporters argued it actually would have helped family farmers who need to build bigger barns — called concentrated animal feeding operations — but could have difficulty doing so under local regulations.

“This bill is very, very important to the livestock operations of the state,” sponsoring Rep. Jim Guest, R-King City, said after the vote. “I feel a little bit frustrated.”

Guest said he was surprised at the vote and would be talking to those who opposed the bill to see if he could change their minds before the session ends Friday.

Nine Missouri counties currently have local health ordinances that impose restrictions beyond the state’s regulation of large livestock feeding operations.

As amended Tuesday in the House, the bill would have left those health ordinances in place. But it would have required other governments wishing to enact more restrictive local ordinances to prove “by clear and convincing evidence” with published scientific data that state and federal laws did not adequately protect human health and the environment in their areas.

As passed in March by the Senate, the bill’s ban on local ordinances restricting animal feeding operations made no exception for existing ordinances.

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