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Parson signs off on plan to limit Missouri farm inspections

Parson signs off on plan to limit Missouri farm inspections

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Waste lagoon breaches at Missouri hog farms

Exhaust fans on one of the barns at the Clear Creek Farm hog operation in Atlanta, Mo. as seen on Friday, April 9, 2021. An environmental specialist with the Department of Natural Resources investigated illegal discharges of waste from leaks in the lagoon into a creek that runs nearby. Photo by David Carson, dcarson@post-dispatch.com

JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Mike Parson on Thursday signed legislation placing limits on inspections of large agricultural facilities such as concentrated animal feeding operations, known as CAFOs.

Parson, a Republican, signed the bill despite concerns from Democrats and others that it would further erode local control and make it more difficult to police bad actors.

The governor was scheduled to attend a ceremonial bill signing Thursday in Trenton, Missouri, according to a news release.

The legislation “protects producers and supports Missouri’s agriculture industry,” Parson said in a statement.

During debate over the measure this spring, Sen. Jeanie Riddle, R-Mokane, said Missouri needed to clearly define who could inspect facilities, adding she wanted to prevent out-of-state actors from inspecting Missouri farms.

The bill allows the Missouri Department of Agriculture, the state Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a county sheriff or any other state or federal agency with regulatory or statutory authority to inspect a facility.

Despite allowing county sheriffs to inspect, opponents said it would further restrict local officials, who are already operating under a 2019 law Parson signed nullifying local health ordinances that impose environmental rules on large farming operations.

The new law, which will take effect in late August, doesn’t apply to high-population charter counties, such as St. Louis, Jefferson and Jackson. It also doesn’t apply to the city of St. Louis, but does apply to St. Charles County.

In addition, the law limits who may offer evidence during a criminal prosecution.

Evidence at a criminal prosecution must be offered by an authorized individual, someone on the property with the permission of the landowner, an official serving a search warrant, or a person who “observed a condition or event at the grounds or facilities” from public land or land owned by the person.

Democrats in the Missouri Senate were able to force some concessions from Republicans before the measure advanced to Parson’s desk.

For example, the law doesn’t apply to dog breeding facilities.

The legislation is House Bill 574.

Jack Suntrup • 573-556-6186 @JackSuntrup on Twitter jsuntrup@post-dispatch.com

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