Judge's ruling creates buffer zone

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A judge's ruling in Cole County could affect the future of confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) across the state.

On Aug. 25, Cole County Associate Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce handed down a decision ordering the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to revoke the permit for a proposed 4,800-head hog farm near Arrow Rock, an historic town of 79 residents located between Boonville and Marshall in central Missouri.

In the 16-page ruling, Judge Joyce prohibits CAFOs within 15 miles of Arrow Rock and other nearby historic sites. Although the ruling does not address areas outside of the Cole County area, DNR Director Doyle Childers said the judge's decision reaches beyond her county's borders.

"We can't do something in one part of the state and not do the same thing in other parts of the state," Childers said in an Associated Press interview.

The state has 30 days to appeal the decision handed down by Judge Joyce. Childers has gone on record as saying his department is likely to be the agency that files an appeal.

The Arrow Rock decision was welcome news to members of the Roaring River Parks Alliance, which has filed appeals seeking the revocation of DNR permits issued for a pullet operation near Roaring River State Park, which is already completed and operational.

Judge Joyce references the Roaring River appeal in her ruling, stating that DNR "failed and refused" to honor or enforce a stay order issued by the state's Administrative Hearing Commission in that case. Childers said the stay order was not enforced because construction at the site was already completed.

In Barry County, a 15-mile radius around Roaring River State Park would take in almost all the southern half of the county and reach up very close to Purdy at the northern edge. The entire George's complex in Butterfield is also contained within this potential buffer zone.

While some groups are lauding the judge's decision, others are concerned about its far-reaching impact. Among the groups urging DNR to pursue an appeal is the Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA).

"The recent court ruling affecting Missouri agriculture has caused much conversation among farmers across the state," said Don Steen, MDA director. "The Missouri Department of Agriculture is urging the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to pursue legal action to overturn the judgment.

"We will continue to do everything we can to support Missouri farmers and appreciate everything they do to feed our families," continued Steen. "After a complete review of the Cole County Court's narrow ruling regarding confined animal feeding operations, the judgment simply applies to the listed parties . . . parties not listed in the lawsuit should continue to conduct business in their usual manner."

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