Opponents of confined animal operations back proposed ordinance

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FULTON - An ordinance proposed in Callaway County could complicate potential confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) construction. It could make it difficult to construct any CAFO in western Callaway County.

Western County Commissioner Roger Fischer drafted the ordinance in late March, which would place mandatory minimum distances between a new CAFO and existing CAFOs, private dwellings and populated areas.

Fischer said the ordinance is meant to help mitigate the spread of diseases that could be fostered among animals in the CAFO.

He said the more distance the better between humans and animals that are in confinement.

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

Callaway County is ripe for CAFO construction.

Fischer's proposed ordinance says, "It is easy to apply for operating permits in our exceptionally well-located county, with access to workers from both Columbia and Jefferson City. As these operations become larger and larger, it is important to protect the farmers and residents of Callaway County from ill effects of such operations."

Tom Brunette has lived in western Callaway since 2006. He worries that if CAFO operations pop up around his home, the sale value of the land he lives on will plummet. 

He knows of a house with a lake that's been on the market three or four years despite a drop in price.

"They can't move it because it's so close to the CAFO, because of the smell. So, is that right? I don't think so," Brunette said.

Brunette is part of Friends of Responsible Agriculture, a group of people who live in the area and are fighting new CAFO construction. The group has been supportive of Fischer's ordinance. 

Fischer said he worries the construction of a milk plant in northeast Columbia could spur CAFO construction in western Callaway. 

"It's gonna be a rather large facility and they're gonna rely on a lot of livestock to supply milk to that dairy facility," Fischer said.

KOMU 8 News reached out to Aurora Organic Dairy, the company that is set to operate the dairy facility in northeast Columbia. 

The company said in an email, "We source between 75-80 percent of the milk we process from company-owned farms. To fill in our supply for the Columbia facility, we may work with local or regional organic dairy farmers. If there isn't enough supply to meet our needs nearby, we will identify possible producers in surrounding states. So, we wouldn't expect this ordinance to impact our facility in Columbia."

"One CAFO is like a spoke on a wheel," Brunette said. "If you have one CAFO, there's other CAFOs that have to be built around that CAFO to be able to support it. So you're not looking at just one CAFO coming in, you're looking at many."

When asked if his proposed ordinance would make it difficult to build a CAFO in western Callaway County, Fischer said only that the area is densely populated and loses about a third of its acreage to the Mark Twain National Forest. 

"The only comment that I've basically gotten from people is they don't understand why it's only western county instead of the entire county," Brunette said.

Fischer said western Callaway County is home to half of the county's population, so building CAFOs in that area could pose a greater health risk than more sparsely populated areas.

Ultimately, though, Fischer said he worries CAFOs could saturate Callaway County.

"There is no reason to believe that Callaway County would not be an optimum place to do that," Fischer said. "We have an opportunity for people to come into Callaway County and set up a big dairy CAFO to feed this new mega plant in Boone County, he said.

Fischer said he worries that the milk plant is coming from out of state.

"They didn't go to school with me, they didn't send their kids to go to school where my kids went, they didn't go to church with me. I don't know 'em. And they are gonna come here, they will set up these CAFOs, and they, as much as they want to be community partners, they're probably not gonna be the best neighbors."

Fischer said his goal is to protect Callaway County and maintain it as a family-friendly county.