Cole County Presiding Judge Pat Joyce has issued a temporary restraining order that will keep a state law regulating concentrated animal feeding operations from going into effect.
Joyce's ruling, issued Tuesday, keeps Senate Bill 391 from going into effect for another 10 days. The bill was scheduled to take effect Aug. 28, as do all state laws that have been signed by the governor.
A hearing on this case is scheduled Sept. 16.
Filing the lawsuit were the Cedar County Commission; Cooper County Public Health Center; Friends of Responsible Agriculture, of Fulton; and private citizens Jefferson Jones, of Fulton, and Susan Williams, of Clarksburg.
Named in the lawsuit are Gov. Mike Parson, Missouri Air Conservation Commission Chairman Gary Pendergrass, Missouri Clean Water Commission Chairwoman Ashley McCarty, the Missouri Pork Association, the Missouri Cattlemen's Association and the Missouri Farm Bureau.
Senate Bill 391 — sponsored by state Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, and signed into law by Parson in May — would prohibit county commissions and county health departments from passing regulations stricter than any state regulations for CAFOs, which are industrial-sized livestock operations.
Under SB 391, a new or expansion of an existing facility would not occur until the Department of Natural Resources had issued an operating permit. CAFO applicants would have to demonstrate to the DNR they can meet several rules and design criteria; and 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.
Critics of CAFOs said the DNR regulations are not enough to properly protect residents from CAFOs. Missouri now has 500 CAFOs, and if SB 391 is allowed to take effect, critics said it would lead to a dramatic increase in the number of CAFOs.
More than 20 counties in Missouri currently have health ordinances dealing with CAFOs, including Cedar and Cooper counties.
In the lawsuit, the Cedar County Commission and Cooper County Health Department allege SB 391 takes away their pre-existing legal authority to make health ordinances and regulations based on unique circumstances and health needs in their counties. They claim that under the right-to-farm amendment to the state Constitution, passed by voters in November 2014, it was the voters' intent that counties and public health centers had the legal authority to adopt health regulations as long as they didn't conflict with regulations authorized by the Department of Health and Senior Services. They allege SB 391 conflicts with the amendment, and the new law would be unconstitutional and invalid.
After having research done by the county attorney and county health department, the Cole County Commission has decided to not consider a county ordinance regulating CAFOs.
Cole County Presiding Commissioner Sam Bushman said the main reason for their decision is the language in SB 391 and the belief that even if the commission did enact an ordinance, it would be null and void once the law went into effect.
Commissioners also noted the county is limited in what it can do regarding CAFOs because it doesn't have countywide zoning. Cole County voters rejected a proposal to adopt countywide zoning in August 2014.
Cole County Health Department Director Kristi Campbell also noted her department would need more funding and staff to handle CAFO regulations.