CALIFORNIA, Mo. — Based on a recommendation from its study group, the Moniteau County Health Board decided not to vote on a CAFO regulations ordinance and, instead, asked the group to study the issue more — then make a recommendation at a special meeting Aug. 5, three weeks from now.
CAFOs, or concentrated animal feeding operations, are large farms with many livestock confined to a relatively small area.
Supporters said they are good for the local economy and the future of farming.
Opponents said they're poorly regulated and pollute the air and water in several ways.
Twenty Missouri counties already have local health regulations that place some limits on how close a CAFO can be to neighboring properties.
However, a bill sponsored this year by state Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City — that Gov. Mike Parson has already signed, so it goes into effect Aug. 28 — says those local ordinances cannot "be in conflict with any rules or regulations authorized and made by the Department of Health and Senior Services (or) by the Department of Social Services."
In addition, the new law states, no local health regulation may "impose standards or requirements on an agricultural operation and its appurtenances (that) inconsistent with, or more stringent than, any provision" or regulation of the state Natural Resources Department.
However, because Missouri's Constitution says lawmakers cannot enact any "ex post facto law, nor (any law) retrospective in its operation," supporters of local ordinances said their regulations must be grandfathered in.
Which is why at least some on the Moniteau County Health Board want to pass local regulations before Aug. 28.
Robert Brundage, of Jefferson City, representing the Missouri Cattlemen's Association, told the Health Board his legal research shows the grandfathering theory "is not true" — that the "Missouri General Assembly can grant" powers to local commissions and boards, but they also can "take it away."
And, in the case of health regulations involving CAFOs, the Legislature has "restricted your authority."
However, Moniteau Health Board Chairman James Canter told Brundage: "We have a (legal) opinion" that disagrees with Brundage's legal opinion.
The Health Board plans to release that opinion later today.
Darrell Henrickson, the chairman of the study group that's been looking at a proposed CAFO ordinance, told the Health Board Monday evening: "We haven't come to a consensus, yet.
"Looking at what's going on with the CAFO world, we still have to look at this a little longer to (determine) what the county needs."
After listening to nearly a half-hour of comments, pro and con, from eight people in the audience of more than 100, Health Board Chairman Canter told the study group to meet several more times and, hopefully, come back Aug. 5 with a new recommendation.
However, he said, any proposal should not mention CAFOs or farmers, because "they think we're targeting them."
Instead, Canter told the News Tribune, the group is to "look at the air- and water-quality for Moniteau County — the entire community, not just the farmers and not just the CAFOs.
"Everybody's interested in clean air and clean water, but how we get there is the issue."
The Health Board had been considering a 13-page, detailed proposal to regulate CAFOs. However, the motion asking the board to vote for that resolution was withdrawn and, Canter said, it's "not in play" right now.
Dennis Vietzer, a 40-year Moniteau County farmer, told the board: "We're talking about something that might happen, that is not a problem currently.
"I don't think county health boards are structured for this. We don't need another set of regulations, another set of people taxing us."
Gary Mitchell, another Moniteau County farmer, thanked the board for giving the study group more time, and said the board should protect the air- and water-quality while, also, protecting farmers' ability to make money.
"We want Moniteau County to be a model county — we don't want it to be divided like these other counties" that have CAFO regulation ordinances, he said. "We need to make sure that we strongly continue to work together, and not to regulate our No. 1 industry out of this county.
"And make sure that we continue to do what's right for the future generations to have more growth and more ability to do what they deserve to do."
However, Jeff Jones, a fourth-generation Callaway County farmer, came to talk about his and his neighbors' experiences with a couple of CAFOs in Central Callaway County, north of Fulton.
"I live within three-tenths of a mile of two large CAFOs," he said. "It's changed our life forever."
He said his house, built in 1900, doesn't have air conditioning throughout, so they have to leave some windows open at night to keep the home cool.
"The stench has gotten so bad," he reported, "that it gets in your clothes, it gets in your hair.
"You can smell it on your food. You can smell it in your water."
He said he has neighbors who are trying to move, but can't even get a bid on their homes.
Still, Jones said, a well-written health ordinance isn't about blocking a CAFO.
"A health ordinance is not to make a barrier, but to come to consensus of a way that we can live, that close to that many animals," he explained. "A health ordinance is to allow some kind of accountability.
"If we can figure a way to do this together, then we've been successful."
This story was edited at 11:25 a.m. July 16, to correct Darrell Henrickson's misidentification.