Commission will consider CAFO-related health ordinance again at Aug. 26 meeting

A possible Ozark County health ordinance related to concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, was the main topic of discussion at the Ozark County Commission’s regular weekly meeting on Monday. The ordinance is expected to be discussed again at next week’s meeting, to be held at 9 a.m. Monday, Aug. 26, two days before a new state law, Senate Bill 391, goes into effect, barring counties from passing regulations that are stricter than or contradictory to state-level CAFO regulations. 

The new law is not retroactive, so it would not impact county ordinances passed before Aug. 28. Twenty Missouri counties, including neighboring Taney County, already have CAFO-related health ordinances in place or are working to pass them by Aug. 28, according to the Missouri Rural Crisis Center.

Currently, the “animal feeding operations” map viewable on the Missouri Department of Natural Resources website shows no CAFOs in Ozark County.

Two Ozark County farmers, Noel Luna and John Steffenson, attended the commission meeting Monday to voice their opinions and gather more information, along with Ozark County Health Department administrator Rhonda Suter and OCHD environmentalist Craig Fox, and Ozark County resident Dennis Lawson, who attends most weekly meetings of the commission.

Eastern District Commissioner Gary Collins said he had received several calls in response to the issue, and Presiding Commissioner John Turner said he had heard from one person who is in favor of enacting an ordinance. 

The Missouri DNR defines a CAFO as an operation that “confines, stables or feeds” a specified minimum number of animals, including more than 2,500 swine, 100,000 broiler chickens, 700 dairy cows or 1,000 beef steers for 45 days or more in a 12-month period where “a ground cover of vegetation is not sustained over at least 50 percent of the confinement area.” Under DNR regulations, confinement buildings, open lots, manure-storage structures and “mortality composters” only have to be located 50 feet away from a property line or public road, and 100 feet from a perennial or intermittent stream. 

“Missouri is not one size fits all,” said Turner, referring to the fact that the soil, water and topography in the Ozarks is much different than that in northern Missouri, where CAFOs are more prevalent. “It’s all about local control,” said Turner. “We owe it to people to talk about it and think about it and be informed on it.”

Turner also said he was “disgusted” that state representatives voted for the bill “without consulting the counties they represent.” 

Those attending the meeting argued that the state-level requirements are already enough and that the county should be careful not to place limits on economic opportunities. 

Although Turner, Collins and Western District Commissioner Greg Donley all expressed concern about the impact CAFOs would have in our area, especially hog-confinement operations, they feel they are stuck “between a rock and a hard place” when it comes to implementing and enforcing any kind of regulations, they said. 

Two major issues help explain the commissioners’ reluctance to pass an ordinance. The first issue is the short time they have to do it. “I wish we had more time to do it right,” Donley said. The second issue is the lack of resources available to enforce an ordinance if one was adopted. Such an ordinance would likely fall to the Ozark County Health Department to handle complaints and monitor compliance. Suter said she had not yet met with her board to see if they were interested in taking action, but she and Fox both said the department would not have the resources to enforce an ordinance. 

Commission meetings, which are held on the second floor of the courthouse, are open to the public. To contact the commissioners or leave a message for them, call 417-679-4096.

Ozark County Times

504 Third Steet
PO Box 188
Gainesville, MO 65655

Phone: (417) 679-4641
Fax: (417) 679-3423