Farm groups and counties are united

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Dear Editor:

Recognizing the important roles of local government, our coalition of 19 agricultural organizations has reached an agreement with the Missouri Association of Counties (MAC) on a major revision of SB 364, the Missouri Farm and Food Preservation Act. The substitute version strikes a reasonable balance between protecting the rights of farmers and the general public.

As introduced, the legislation would protect farmers from unjustified nuisance lawsuits. While it is true that farmers' tractors make noise, combines produce dust, livestock farms can smell sometimes weaning calves are noisy, and farm vehicles will get mud on highways and sometimes slow traffic, these are some of the characteristics common to agricultural communities in Missouri's countryside. It is no different than the congestion, vehicle fumes, crowded sidewalks and traffic noise that are unique to the city.

The other major provision of SB 364 would limit the regulation of agriculture to state and federal governments. In recent years, 16 counties have adopted county health ordinances regulating animal agriculture to the extent that any meaningful growth of livestock production has been shut down. Moreover, the health ordinances are not based upon sound science justifying their need beyond the existing state and federal regulations.

Under the compromise, our Coalition and MAC agreed to add several new provisions to SB 364. Some of the major changes are:

• No new Class 1A (the state's largest) concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) in any area unless approved by the county commission.

• Increased setbacks for new CAFOs not designated as a Managed Environmental Livestock Operation (MELO).

• Creation of a new CAFO Review Board with authority to review and have input on DNR's livestock permits.

• Increased state regulations upon new CAFOs greater than 650 animal units.

• Authorize tax credits to address odor control issues and others.

We have always been open to reasonable compromises on SB 364. Knowing the legislative process would allow ample opportunity for amendments, Coalition members initiated meetings with MAC to discuss county concerns before legislation was ever introduced. Yet, we remain committed to providing farmers with a level of certainty regarding their regulatory obligations and protecting their ability to take advantage of opportunities to expand, modernize or diversify their operations.

Nothing in this legislation, as introduced or as amended, would allow farmers and ranchers to pollute the environment and ignore compliance with state and federal laws. Farmers live on the land they farm, drink the water and breathe the air. They are and want to be good stewards of the environment.

Agriculture and county governments have worked together constructively and in good faith to find common ground. The compromises reached are reasonable and in the best interest of farmers, public officials and consumers--all of whom understand the importance of maintaining an abundant, safe and affordable domestic food supply.


Charles E. Kruse, President of Missouri Farm Bureau