3.5-year fight over hog farms stalled amid confusion

8 months 3 weeks 2 days ago Tuesday, October 24 2017 Oct 24, 2017 Tuesday, October 24, 2017 8:49:00 PM CDT October 24, 2017 in News
By: James Packard and Celine Pence, KOMU 8 Reporters
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CALLAWAY COUNTY – A years’-long drama over hog farms in Callaway County might finally come to a head with an April vote on a new health ordinance. But first, the committee working on that ordinance says it needs a little clarity about what it’s supposed to be doing.

Half of the committee members didn’t show up to the last meeting, and those who did asked the Callaway County Commission to give them a better outline of what it wants out of the ordinance.

The committee was set up this summer to put together rules related to the operation of confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). It had several meetings before three of the members voted to disband the committee earlier this month, one member said.

According to that member, the three who voted to disband are all tied to CAFO operations. Others on the committee don’t want more hog farms in the county.

Phil Glenn is a farmer near the location of a proposed CAFO, which has been stalled for nearly four years. He said he fears a flood of new CAFOs in Callaway County. 

He said lax permitting requirements mean CAFOs can be created in large numbers

“Our concern is how much can the land take?” Glenn said.

Roger Fischer, the associate commissioner of the western district in Callaway County, proposed the health ordinance in March.

He told KOMU 8 News in March he wanted to establish minimum distances between a new CAFO and property that unassociated people reside or gather. He said his goal was not to target CAFOs, but improve public health.

"It does reduce the likelihood that a human would contract a disease or virus from the CAFO,” Fischer said in March.

Some people oppose CAFOs in Callaway County because they believe the operations can devalue their properties. For others, like Glenn, a major concern is that manure from the facility, which is used as fertilizer, will not stay on land for crops.

“They will pump it out spring in fall. Well, in the spring you have not planted your crops yet. There’s nothing on the ground. And in the fall, you’ve harvested and there’s nothing on the ground,” Glenn said. “So, if you get the torrential rains, it just stands to reason that it will erode out and leech out.”

He said he's worried about what's in the manure.

“There are studies now showing that there are bacterial possibilities, infections and superbugs because they’ve been feeding these animals antibiotics. These bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics that are used by humans,” Glenn said.

Eastern District Commissioner Randy Kleindienst said the plan is for the commission to clearly write out what is expected of the committee regarding the health ordinance.

The Department of Natural Resources has a set of rules about how CAFOs can be constructed.  Kleindienst said he wants to see what enhancements can be made to the rules for Callaway County.

“Those folks who are petitioning against the CAFOs are all good people and have a right, and I support their right to make their voices heard,” Kleindienst said. “But the people with the CAFOs are good people too and they’re trying to make a living.”

Kleindienst is against singling out CAFOs so they cannot do business, especially in an agricultural community.

“Understand that CAFOs are not illegal, immoral or unethical,” Kleindienst said. “It’s a fifteen-million-dollar business when one comes in.”

Kleindienst said the commission does want Callaway County to keep clean and fresh air.

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