For the second time in less than a week, area residents were given the opportunity to voice their concerns on the passing of Senate Bill 391, which allows new Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations to move into Missouri counties without facing any new regulations from the counties.
At the July 29 meeting of the county commission, commissioners were given the chance to hear from a number of community members whose desire is for the commission to pass a county health and safety ordinance that could be grandfathered in, before the state bill goes into effect on Aug. 28.
On July 26, the Taneyhills Library in Branson hosted a meeting to educate residents and community leaders on the ramifications of a CAFO opening locally and the need for health ordinances in both Taney and Stone counties.
Pat Campbell, who co-lead the July 26 meeting, was the first to speak to the commissioners on Monday. Campbell presented a petition to commissioners, with a folder full of signatures from Taney County residents, land and property owners and farmers, who are all in support of a the county establishing a county health ordinance for CAFOs.
The petition addresses the signees’ concerns, including the effects CAFOs would have on water and air quality, the tourism industry, infringement on property rights, property devaluation, road systems and the quality of life and enjoyment of Taney County residents.
“I think the major fundamental reason that we are asking that a health ordinance be put in place is to ensure the safety of our drinking water. If that is ensured, it sort of takes care of all the other concerns,” said Campbell.
In Campbell’s address to the commissioner’s, she stated that the consequences of not passing a health ordinance would be dismal.
“We would give up the right to have stiffer regulations than (Department of Natural Resources) has and those regulations are minimum at best,” Campbell said.
“Currently a CAFO can spray their liquid waste within 50 feet of your property line, within 150 feet of a public use area like a boat dock, a marina, a swimming hole or a public park and within 100 feet of a drinking water well or spring. That just isn’t safe. We would give up the right to have set back requirements between CAFOs and populated areas like a subdivision.”
The commission also heard from Tom Aley, a landowner in Taney County, a co-owner of the research and consulting business Ozark Underground Laboratory, a nationally certified professional hydrogeologist and forester and a licensed geologist in four states. Aley, who also spoke at the Taneyhills Library meeting, explained to commissioners that the rock and frequently shallow soil in Taney County provides little natural cleansing for contaminated waters that would sink though the soil and enter the groundwater that supplies thousands of area wells and streams.
“From a hydrological standpoint it is essentially impossible in our karst landscape to have a large CAFO with its associated waste disposal systems that will not create ground water pollution,” said Aley. “The pollution will affect springs, streams and drinking water wells far beyond the boundaries of lands owned or used by the CAFO.”
Aley also shared that over a period of a year the soil and vegetation in Taney County can generally handle the waste load of about one beef animal for every three acres. However, the density of waste from animals at a CAFO would be more than 1,000 times greater.
“CAFOs are big industrial operations. Not farms. They will hurt, not help, real farmers. They will create unsafe groundwater. They belong in areas with high evaporation rates and low rainfall,” said Aley. “They don’t belong in Taney County with our humid wet climate and groundwater supplies that can easily be polluted.”
The conversation in the meeting also changed course at one point when Taney County Sheriff Jimmie Russell said that he believed an ordinance was already in place that banned a CAFO from even opening in Taney County.
“I think that if you guys will go back into the records and look, in the early 2000’s, the county commission passed a CAFO ordinance prohibiting CAFOs in Taney County,” said Russell.
While not opposed to the passing of a strict health ordinance, Luke Barnett, manger of the College of the Ozarks hog farm and feed mill, also addressed commissioners when the discussion turned toward the banning of CAFOs in Taney County.
“I do agree with what I believe Mr. Aley said. With our humid climate and karst topography, I don’t think a CAFO would ever want to come to Taney County, Missouri. But if they did, that would provide a reliable, safe fertilizer source that we could use instead of using commercial fertilizer’s,” said Barnett. “I believe that it should be regulated according to what the state has. If the county deems that a health ordinance is in the best interest of the county, then so be it. But to state that a ban needs to be made, I just don’t agree with that.”
Once many of the meeting attendees had the opportunity to ask a question or speak, Western Taney County Commissioner Brandon Williams said he believes the true concern of everyone in the room isn’t just whether or not CAFOs are good or bad.
“The bigger issue in all of this still goes back, for me anyways, is local control. The majority of you people out here, I either go to church with you, you know how to get a hold of me, you have my cell phone number and that’s important,” said Williams.
“I would assume that everyone here is all on the same page. We’re not anti-farmers, we’re not anti-agriculture, we’re not anti any of those things. We’re not anti-business. We just want to make sure we protect the resources that we do have. And I’m assuming we all like bacon?”
Commissioners were also asked by residents in attendance to share their stance on the passing of an ordinance. Williams and Presiding Taney County Commissioner Mike Scofield said they were both in favor of a health ordinance of some type that maintains local control.
Eastern Taney County Commissioner Sheila Wyatt, who joined the meeting via phone conference, said she is also 100 percent in favor of an ordinance.
“I am in favor of an ordinance that if a CAFO should apply that they should have a permit from Taney County, from the health department for the health ordinance and protection, before they come in,” said Wyatt.
As far as a timeline goes, Williams said Taney County Attorney Travis Elliot is reviewing example ordinances from other counties and working to fine tune the wording of an ordinance that would work for Taney County.
As of press time, the county was still going through the county archives and looking for the ordinance, mentioned by Sheriff Russell in the meeting, that banned CAFOs in Taney County.