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Local rules on large farms scrapped by Missouri lawmakers; bill headed to Parson's desk

Local rules on large farms scrapped by Missouri lawmakers; bill headed to Parson's desk


JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri House on Tuesday sent to Gov. Mike Parson legislation that would ban counties from cracking down on large animal feeding operations through regulations.

The legislation, sent to the governor on a 103-44 vote, forbids counties from enacting regulations on concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, that are more stringent than state standards. Groups such as the pro-industry Missouri Farm Bureau have made the legislation a priority this year.

Groups such as the anti-CAFO Missouri Rural Crisis Center support the county regulations, saying state standards are weak compared to the county rules. But industry groups say the regulations are a back-door way of ensuring large farms stay out of a county, impeding economic development.

Senate Democrats launched an overnight filibuster of the proposal last month, and eventually earned concessions in the form of setback requirements for "export-only" CAFOs, and the formation of a legislative committee that will study the environmental impacts of agriculture in Missouri.

Export-only CAFOs ship manure to other farms, where the manure is used as fertilizer. The legislation imposes regulations on where the manure can be sprayed, with the goal of protecting waterways and public lands, the Democrats said.

Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, the bill sponsor, said the proposal would stop the roughly 20 counties that already have health ordinances on the books from enforcing the rules.

Parson, a Republican, is expected to sign the bill. He cheered news last month that the proposal advanced out of the Senate.

Rep. Tracy McCreery, D-Olivette, said the implementation of CAFOs throughout Missouri is short-term way of boosting agriculture production, but will be damage the state's landscape in the long run.

"My concern is that with this bill’s passage we are going to go from being the clean state of Missouri to a very dirty state very quickly," she said on the House floor.

While Democrats pushed for local control, Republicans said CAFO regulation should be a state issue.

“Would you support each county making a decision on whether or not to implement right to work?” Rep. Curtis Trent, R-Springfield, asked McCreery.

"I think that our state Department of Agriculture and the USDA are more capable of handling these issues than a county court or a health department," said Rep. Don Rone, R-Portageville.

The legislation is Senate Bill 391.

Lexi Churchill of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

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