The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has refused to amend a rule regulating confined animal feeding operation emissions in the state.
Submitted to the Missouri Air Conservation Commission by a law firm for Callaway County-based Friends of Responsible Agriculture and other groups, the petitions requested changes to a regulation nicknamed the "odor rule," which requires Class IA CAFOs to implement an odor control plan.
A Sept. 26 petition claimed, as the odor rule applies only to Missouri's largest CAFO category, neighbors of smaller CAFOs are exposed to harmful and unpleasant air emissions.
The petitioners asked the MACC to expand the rule to cover Class IB, IC and II CAFOs; require said CAFOs to document emission sources and emissions; and impose emission standards for ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and particulate matter at CAFO property lines.
"It cannot be disputed that the manure and waste generated by 750 hogs stinks just as bad as the hog manure and waste generated at a Class IA CAFO," wrote Stephen Jeffery, an environmental lawyer for the petitioning groups.
DNR's air pollution control program director, Kyra Moore, responded Nov. 22, stating DNR had decided not to amend the rule.
Moore said the MACC's odor regulations were reviewed extensively in 2007. Additionally, non-Class IA CAFOs already face statutory and regulatory requirements. Bringing them under the odor rule would impose additional regulatory burdens, she said.
Jeffery said that response is insufficient. In a Nov. 28 email to DNR assistant general counsel Richard Waters, Jeffery called the decision "arbitrary, capricious and unlawful."
He said as the petitions were submitted to the MACC, and as the body with authority to change rules, the MACC should be required to respond to the petition in accordance with state law. He also noted since 2007, "hundreds" of CAFO permits have been issued in Missouri; and while non-Class IA CAFOs do face regulations, "none of these affect or regulate odorous emissions."
Jeffery asked that DNR place the petitions on the MACC's Dec. 7 meeting agenda.
DNR spokesperson Connie Patterson confirmed Thursday the petitions will be discussed at the meeting.
A pressing matter
Jeff Jones, a FORAG member and farmer involved in sending the petitions to MACC, said it's past time to revisit the odor rule.
"A lot of things have changed in terms of the research on CAFO safety (since 2007)," Jones said.
For members of FORAG and the other groups, CAFO regulations aren't an abstract issue.
The Sept. 26 petition mentioned several in-progress CAFOs to be located "near established residential areas." The list included Callaway Farrowing LLC, a Class IB swine CAFO proposed to be built in Hatton by Iowa-based Eichelberger Farms Inc. That's less than half a mile north of Jones' farm.
Callaway Farrowing, slated to hold 10,000 swine, has been embroiled in legal battles since 2014, when FORAG first formed to block it. A Missouri judge recently dissolved a court-issued writ that had been blocking the Missouri Clean Water Commission from voting on a permit for the farm.
Jones and other FORAG members feel strongly that under-regulated CAFOs pose public health risks.
"Callaway Farrowing is coming in less than a IA, so they're going to slide in under the odor rule," Jones said. "It's hard to believe that it'll be exempt from the odor rule, for the amount of gallons of fertilizer they'll produce in a year."
With the petitions, FORAG and the other groups included two affidavits from scientists, testifying emissions from CAFOs can put their neighbors at risk. One was from Dr. Leo Patrick Smith, medical director of the University of Missouri's clinical microbiology lab.
Smith also helped prepare the CAFO-related health ordinance proposed by Callaway County Western District Commissioner Roger Fischer. That ordinance is being discussed by a citizen committee, which includes Smith and Jones.
A fourth-generation farmer, Jones and FORAG aren't anti-farm. Nor does he oppose all CAFOs.
"I am a farmer, and I classify myself as being a traditional family farmer," he said. "We were taught to be what we call 'stewards of the soil.' That's taking care of everything that's affected by the soil — the air, the water, the community and everything around it."
He hopes to find a regulatory balance that allows CAFOs to exist in Callaway County while protecting the health of CAFOs' neighbors.
MACC's meeting is at 9 a.m. Dec. 7 in the Bennett Spring Conference Room of the Elm Street Conference Center, 1730 East Elm St. in Jefferson City. It is open to the public.