ST. LOUIS — A new Missouri law that shields large farms from local health regulations is now in effect, but opponents say the fight is far from over.
Cole County Judge Daniel Green earlier this month set aside a temporary restraining order that was imposed days earlier. A lawsuit over the law is proceeding, with the next court hearing scheduled for Dec. 9.
The law prevents Missouri counties from passing health regulations stricter than state laws governing large farms that raise hogs, poultry and cattle. The industrial farms are known as concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs.
The large farms can produce meat, dairy and eggs more efficiently than traditional farms, but often stoke concerns about air and water pollution.
The lawsuit aimed at retaining local regulatory control was filed in August on behalf of two counties and cattle farmers such as Jeff Jones, whose family has farmed in Callaway County for four generations.
“The state laws are not stringent enough,” said Jones, 52. “They don’t hold accountability to these CAFOs.”
Jones said he lives about 3 miles from an industrial farm. He worries about water pollution from that operation, and said the stench in the air is often overpowering.
“It gets inside your house,” Jones said. “It gets in your hair. You can smell it on food on your kitchen table.”
Supporters of CAFOS say some local governments that are unfriendly to industrial farms threaten to regulate them out of existence.
At least 20 Missouri counties have imposed additional regulations and fees on animal feeding operations through health ordinances, according to data from the University of Missouri Extension. Another nine counties and townships enacted zoning regulations.
Republican Gov. Mike Parson supports the new law. Parson’s spokeswoman, Kelli Jones, said in a statement that the measure “will open doors for Missouri farm and ranch families to meet growing world food demand and ensure Missouri keeps more agriculture production in our state.”
Parson is named in the suit, along with the Missouri Clean Water Commission and the Missouri Air Conservation Commission, and groups representing farm interests — the Missouri Farm Bureau, the Missouri Pork Association and the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association.