With the recent passage of a new state law, the changes to how CAFOs will operate were a topic of discussion Thursday at the Water Protection Forum’s quarterly meeting.
The meeting, which is run by the Department of Natural Resources’ Water Protection Program, in part outlined how Senate Bill 391 will affect the department’s interactions with confined animal feeding operations, which are farms with large amounts of livestock in a small area.
Senate Bill 391, which was signed into law by Gov. Mike Parson in May, will go into effect Aug. 28. The new law prohibits county commissions and county health departments from passing any regulations on CAFOs that are more strict than state regulations.
The bill has been surrounded by some amount of controversy since it was first introduced, with supporters saying CAFOs are good for the local economy, and opponents worried about regulation and pollution of air and water.
Heather Peters, environmental supervisor for the Water Protection Program, presented changes to the DNR’s policy for approving permits for CAFOs due to the bill.
The DNR was already responsible for providing permits to Missouri’s approximately 500 CAFOs in order to protect water quality. The bill only causes a few changes to the process.
As before, CAFO applicants will have to demonstrate to the DNR that they can meet several rules and design criteria. They must prove they are a legal company, provide neighbor notices, meet buffer distances, and provide plans for animal management, manure generation and nutrient management.
Once all of the requirements are met and reviewed, the DNR will issue a permit. No CAFOs can start construction before the DNR grants them an operating permit, according to the new law.
Neighbor notices are one area where the law is causing a slight change. The notices themselves will stay the same, including content — a summary of the CAFO and basic information about the facility — and deadlines. What the new law changes is how far away from the CAFO the notices must be sent.
Depending on the size of the CAFO, each location has a buffer zone of a certain size from the facility to the nearest neighbor. Smaller facilities may have a buffer zone of 1,000 feet, while a larger CAFO’s buffer can be up to 3,000 feet. Before Bill 391, the neighbor notice zone was 1.5 times the distance buffer.
The law will change that distance to three times the buffer, requiring more neighbors to be notified in some cases. Any neighbors within that zone will need to receive a neighbor notice.
For larger Class 1A facilities, that zone is now 9,000 feet. Peters said there are about 20 of this size CAFO in Missouri. For the smaller Class 1C facilities, the zone is now 3,000 feet.
The law says “adjoining property owners,” should be notified within that zone, but Peters said the definition of that has been debated — whether the properties need to be touching or just within that vicinity. Peters said, for now, they are using the definition of being within the zone.
Senate Bill 391 also called for the creation of a Joint Committee on Agriculture, which will review regulations in the agriculture community in the state. Peters said they will be looking at the Department of Natural Resources, along with the Department of Agriculture and Department of Health.
As far as the main part of the new law, which focuses on stringency of county regulations, the DNR has no input on that process, and isn’t affected by the change, as far as what they can do.
The Senate bill also added new requirements to the land application of liquid waste and manure from CAFOs. Right now, CAFO owners have a lot of requirements to apply liquid manure to their land, but the regulations do not apply if that waste is sold to a third party.
However, the new law will apply some of those same requirements to the third parties that take the CAFO waste, including setback requirements of at least 50 feet from any property boundary, 300 feet from any public drinking water lake, 300 feet from any public drinking water intake structure, 100 feet from any perennial and intermittent streams without vegetation and 35 feet from streams with vegetation.