Monday, March 3, 2008
Corporate Pig Farms Get Added Scrutiny
Corporate Pig Farms (CAFO's - concentrated animal feeding operations) continue to be a big environmental and local control issue.
The Joplin Globe recently can a story on the desire of local governments to control these enormous feed operations vs. the efforts by some Republicans to force these operations on folks.
“The problem with Missouri is that it’s wide open for CAFOs. Missouri’s laws, when compared to other nearby states, permit far larger numbers of animals to be confined under one roof with little or no regulation,” said local farmer Zach McQuire. “What these corporate farms can do with these small CAFOs, with just a few thousand animals, is put them right against their neighbor’s property line and drive them out to buy their land.”
Rep. Jeff Harris, a candidate for Missouri Attorney General, is sponsoring legislation that would allow local governments - like Clay and Platte counties - to determine what restrictions are appropriate. Farm Bureau, the voice of corporate farms and a group that supports Republicans like Gov. Matt Blunt, opposes the legislation. Several environmental and pro-farmer groups - like Missouri Rural Crisis Center - are in favor of the bill.
A bill recently introduced by state Rep. Jeff Harris, D-Columbia, would give rural communities greater power to limit CAFOs near their property. House Bill 1931 would allow local residents to use the initiative-petition process to put approval of a proposed CAFO to a public vote.
Existing law only requires notification of those living within 4,500 feet of the proposed CAFO. Nor does the law require the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to take local opposition into account when reviewing a permit application.
Harris, who wants to be the Democratic nominee for Missouri attorney general, said, “This legislation will give the people forced to live with the smell, pollution and waste caused by a nearby CAFO a powerful voice in the licensing process.
The Globe followed up with a strongly worded editorial.
Big ag will take proposals by state Rep. Jeff Harris as a slap in the face. Don’t. Take them rather as a boot to the butt.
. . .
The need for this is so self-evident it doesn’t even require justification. One can’t wander too far around Southwest Missouri before discovering that factory farms have overplayed their hand at the expense of neighbors’ property values, our environment and quality of life.
House Bill 909, meanwhile, would prohibit CAFOs near state parks and historic sites by setting up a five-mile buffer. Arrow Rock and the Battle of Athens state historic sites already are threatened by hog CAFOs, and a 65,600 chicken CAFO already is operating not far from Roaring River State Park.
What's the big deal? Who cares about corporate pig farms in Joplin? Well, the folks in Clay and Platte Counties - folks with a Kansas City, Missouri address - are concerned enough about having a million tons of pig crap in a lagoon to support this legislation. And for the folks who take thier families canoeing on the North Fork, the Joplin Globe points out that the lagoons are getting closer and closer to the springs that feed that crystal clear river in Pettis County.
Additionally, this becomes even more important in the tight Attorney General race when Chris Koster filed the pro-Farm Bureau/CAFO bill and Jeff Harris filed the anti-CAFO bill. The Globe pointed out that a huge voter turnout - 80% against CAFO - was reported in one recent local government election dealing with these corporate pig farms. This could sway an election.