Kansas City Star
December 30, 2005

it's causing a stink

By Karen Dillon

Rachel's summary:

Huge farms that confine thousands of pigs or chickens could become the
biggest environmental battlefield of 2006 in Missouri.

On the one side are nearby residents and traditional farmers who see
the massive feeding operations as threats to their health and

Dozens of opponents, and sometimes hundreds, are showing up at
meetings around northeast Missouri to discuss proposed legislation
that would limit the ability of their local governments to regulate
industrial farms.

"You have hundreds and hundreds of people who are up in arms, leaving
their farms to talk about it and raising hell with their legislators,"
said Rhonda Perry, program director with the Missouri Rural Crisis
Center, which is an advocate for the family farm.

On the other side are those who fear that Missouri agriculture could
suffer from competition if the growth of industrial farms is
restricted too much.

That could happen if counties are allowed to pass ordinances that are
stricter than federal and state laws, they say.

"Do we want agriculture to continue in our state, do we want it to go
to another state, or do we want it to go to another country?" asked
Rep. Kathy Chinn, a Clarence Republican who operates an industrial
farm that recently expanded.

In one sense, the upcoming battle in the legislature actually began a
decade ago.

Since the mid-1990s, when Premium Standard Farms north of Kansas City
was being cited for major environmental pollution, at least 12
counties have passed health ordinances to regulate such industries.
Platte County was one of them. The ordinances usually increase the
distance that confinement farms must locate from residences to better
protect people from odors and pollution.

In the last legislative session, a bill that would have limited those
types of ordinances was narrowly defeated. Many people expect a
showdown in the legislature again this session over another industrial
farm bill that has been drafted by Rep. Peter Myers, a Sikeston

In recent months, three more counties have passed industrial farm
health ordinances and six more are considering them. In southwest
Missouri, Newton and Jasper counties are considering ordinances in
part because of a dispute over Moark, one of the country's largest egg

Thousands of residents have signed a petition expressing concern over
Moark's expansion plans. The state's environmental regulatory agency
recently gave a permit to the company, which had violated state
environmental laws for years, to expand. Residents have filed an
appeal with the state.

Commissioners in Chinn's own Macon County are considering an ordinance
in part because of her farm.

Pam Stokes, whose home is about a mile from Chinn's farm, learned from
her mail carrier last fall that construction was under way to add more
hogs at Chinn's farm.

Stokes says studies show large industrial farms can be hazardous to
nearby residents' health by spreading microorganisms from fecal matter
through the air and water. A lifelong Republican who is now
considering a change to the Democratic Party, Stokes says Chinn is
refusing to listen to her constituents.

Stokes and her neighbors have formed the Citizens Against a Polluted

"There are several people who are going to work very hard to make sure
she is not re-elected," Stokes said. "People in Macon County are mad
as hell."

Opponents' biggest complaint is that state and federal laws allow an
industrial farm with an unlimited number of livestock to locate within
a half-mile of a residence.

Local health ordinances that have passed or are being considered
mostly extend that buffer to at least a mile from a residence. They
often require better manure management and a large bond to be paid for
future environmental cleanup if necessary.

The Missouri Rural Crisis Center says a large industrial farm with
thousands of pigs or other livestock could generate as much waste as
the city of St. Louis and would be "located within 3,000 feet of a

"We are trying to put in some simple health and environmental
regulations that protect the family farm," said Beau Hicks, director
of tourism for Hannibal, who has helped organize one of the two groups
in northeast Missouri supporting local control.

A lifelong Republican, Hicks switched parties recently and is running
for state representative. He switched in part because he thinks some
elected Republicans who are pushing the proposed bill are violating a
basic tenet of their party, local control.

"I said, 'Wait a minute, a Republican wrote this?' " Hicks said. "On
any other issue we are all for local control."

Myers, sponsor of the bill, said it doesn't violate Republican
principles because it doesn't prohibit commissioners from passing an
ordinance, only lays out steps they must follow before they can.

Indeed, Myers doesn't see the controversy as a political one.

"There is a lot of emotionalism -- it's all about hogs smelling," he
said. "It's also about stifling enterprise in Missouri...people feel
very strongly on both sides."

At any rate, opponents will have a hard go because they face one of
the strongest political forces in the state, the Missouri Farm Bureau,
which has offices in most of the state's counties.

The Farm Bureau policy opposing the use of county health ordinances to
regulate industrial farms was just reaffirmed this month by the
bureau's 500 voting delegates, said Leslie Holloway, the bureau's

The county bureau directors have been visiting county commissioners to
inform them of the bureau's position.

Holloway said industrial farms got a bad rap since the 1990s.

"We don't defend violators," Holloway said. "For the most part people
who are familiar with livestock operations know that most of them are
meeting the state and federal regulations."

Missouri has about 400 industrial farms that are regulated by the

Holloway also said many people have received information about
industrial farms that is misleading, creating the backlash. For
example, most industrial farms are nowhere near as large as Premium
Standard Farms.