Efforts to limit regulations on concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, came to a temporary halt Tuesday when a Cole County judge issued a restraining order on Senate Bill 391.

The bill, signed by Gov. Mike Parson in May, prevents county commissions and health boards from instituting regulations that are stricter than state law, according to previous Missourian reporting. The law would have gone into effect Aug. 28.

Proponents of the bill argue that uniform statewide regulations make it easier for rural landowners to conduct business, especially for those whose property crosses county lines.

The Cedar County Commission, Cooper County Public Health Center, Friends of Responsible Agriculture and three Missouri farmers sued Parson, the Missouri Air Conservation Commission and Missouri Clean Air Commission this summer arguing that Senate Bill 391 is unconstitutional.

The plaintiffs in the suit allege that the law does not have the power to override existing county health ordinances, according to a statement released by the Missouri Rural Crisis Center.

The debate over Senate Bill 391 centers on what regulations the companies establishing CAFOs in Missouri should adhere to.

According to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, CAFOs are defined as feeding operations that reach a specific threshold of farm animals — for example, 2,500 pigs or 700 dairy cows.

About 500 CAFOs already exist in Missouri, and opponents of Senate Bill 391 are quick to clarify that they are not anti-CAFO.

Melanie Hutton, an administrator at the Cooper County Public Health Center, said the manner in which the CAFOs dispose of manure can be dangerous for the surrounding communities if not done properly.

Hutton said that while there are “manure management plans,” weather patterns such as big storms that create runoff can impact whether manure is being disposed of safely.

“That’s important with cases when they spread these millions of gallons of manure. And some people do it very well,” said Hutton. “However, there’s no monitoring by the state of Missouri that says, ‘X CAFO is doing a good job.’”

The temporary restraining order issued by Judge Patricia Joyce will be in effect for 10 days. A hearing on the matter has been scheduled for Sept. 19.

State Rep. Chuck Basye, R-Rocheport, voted for the bill in May. Despite backlash from his own constituents, Basye said he stands by his decision. He said it is better overall for landowners to have statewide health codes to follow.

“If they don’t like it,” Basye said of his detractors, “they can vote me out of office.”

Supervising editor is Mark Horvit.

  • Molly Hart is an assistant city editor at the Missourian. She has previously reported on state government. She can be reached at mhart@mail.missouri.edu.

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