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story.lead_photo.caption In this March 31, 2017 photo, Callaway County Commissioner Roger Fischer points to the western district of the county, highlighted in orange and green. The townships affected by his proposed health ordinance are outlined in black in the lower map. Photo by Helen Wilbers / News Tribune.

Six months after receiving a completed proposed health ordinance, two Callaway County commissioners have issued written responses.

It's not the response for which activists supporting the ordinance had hoped.

Presiding Commissioner Gary Jungermann and Eastern District Commissioner Randy Kleindienst argued existing Missouri Department of Natural Resources rules already cover the large farming operations the proposed health ordinance would regulate.

Jefferson Jones, a member of the committee that wrote the proposed ordinance and strong proponent for regulating confined animal feeding operations in the county, provided copies of the responses from the commissioners.

"I'm 110 percent dissatisfied," he said during a Sept. 11 phone interview. "I believe, strongly, that this should go to a vote of the people."

In Callaway County, it is up to commissioners to determine which proposed ordinances should appear on ballots. The responses from Kleindienst and Jungermann did not directly address whether this was a possibility. Jungermann confirmed Monday there is no intention to put the ordinance, in its current form, on the ballot.

"I need some better research," he said. "There's nothing out there that's proving that hogs are doing some kind of detrimental damage."

Jungermann's response details several reasons he believes the ordinance wouldn't be a good fit.

"I do not believe it is conducive to good government to have 114 different sets of rules for Missouri farmers, (one for each county)," he stated.

In a phone message, he added if each county has its own regulations, CAFO operators will simply develop farms in those with the most business- and farm-friendly regulations. Introducing strict rules in Callaway County could cause it to miss out on business opportunities, he fears. And, Jungermann said, this is the strictest health ordinance of this type that he's seen in Missouri.

Then there's the budget.

"Counties do not have the funding required to sustain management of such ordinances," Jungermann stated.

He expressed fears taxpayer dollars could be at risk if the county is sued due to the ordinance.

"I've had two attorneys look at it, and both of them suggested that it opened us up for huge lawsuits," he said. "Insurance doesn't cover us if we make an ordinance and get sued."

He said if a change in CAFO regulations is necessary, it should be handed down from the state Legislature, which has more power to back laws and regulations.

"I've talked to some legislatures and Missouri Farm Bureau over last month to six weeks (about the potential for tightening CAFO regulations)," he said. "It could be a topic of conversation coming up. I think they're very open to that."

Background

The Citizens Health Advisory Committee initially was formed in May by Callaway County commissioners to review a draft ordinance proposed by Western District Commissioner Roger Fischer. Committee members Kenny Brinker, Tim Safranski and Josh Lehenbauer resigned Jan. 11, stating the committee had come to a standstill and could not resolve differences of opinion.

This prompted a public hearing. In late January, commissioners voted 2-1 to dissolve the committee. Jungermann told those remaining committee members they were welcome to continue meeting as an unofficial citizen committee.

Committee members finished the reviewing and rewriting the ordinance in mid-February. In its final form, it stretched to 35 pages, including 13 sections and several appendices. If passed, it would establish health regulations for CAFOs including standards for the permitting of a new CAFO and requirements for construction, operations and waste disposal.

It also would require those applying for a county health permit to establish a CAFO to "demonstrate financial insurance" by obtaining a surety bond or insurance. The ordinance would apply to new confined animal feeding operations with a specified density of animals: 1,000 or more animal units at 150 or more per acre.

Committee members, including Leo Patrick Smith, medical director of the University of Missouri's clinical microbiology lab, claimed CAFOs can pose a health risk to those living nearby or near where their waste products are spread.

"Factory farming creates a 'perfect storm' for the proliferation of drug-resistant bacteria," the ordinance stated, citing the potential for overuse of antibiotics to create hard-to-treat super bugs.

During the lengthy review process, some members of the farming community expressed opposition to tightening regulations on CAFOs.

"We kept coming back to the idea that the state already regulates CAFOs tightly," Brinker said during a January meeting. Brinker owns a large hog operation near Auxvasse.

Jones has stated previously that if the commissioners reject the ordinance, he and others who support it will resubmit it in the future.

"I hope we can hold (the commissioners) accountable for the health of Callaway County," he said.

According to Jungermann, however, farming already is moving toward safer, healthier practices.

"Back when I was a kid, you kept hogs on soil," he said. "They rooted everything up, and every time it rained it washed straight into the streams. We treated penicillin like candy. Technology has changed quite a bit."

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