Darvin Bentlage

Darvin Bentlage

Missouri has the weakest rules overseeing Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations in the United States. You would think that corporate factory farms would be happy. But they want more and always will.

Missouri had a law for the protection from nuisance lawsuits that required the operation not to create a nuisance for one year. After that year the operation could never be sued ever.

In 2011, the lobbyist got the Missouri Legislature to change the law and define CAFOs as "permanent nuisances” that can’t be sued for losses to people’s right to enjoy their land and property that their families have lived on for generations. Essentially the corporate lobbyist and legislators made it so that the only issue that could be litigated is the depressed value of your house, nothing else. A similar law was found unconstitutional in Iowa, but apparently not in Missouri.

And when you challenge CAFOs still in court, and attempt to hold them accountable for the negative impacts on your farm, life, water and air, and property rights, the CAFO people could intimidate, humiliate and dehumanize you. They are bullies void of our values as neighbors, community members and Missourians.

Let me remind you, Missouri has the weakest rules governing CAFOs in the United States.

And they want more. They have sufficiently stopped our Department of Natural Resources from being able to protect us and our water and air from CAFOs. They are currently lobbying to further limit our rights to protect our property rights in the court system. And, right now corporate ag lobbyists and legislators in Jefferson City are working to advance a bill that would eliminate state statute 192-300 that allows local control of corporate CAFOs via Senate Bill 391.

Local control is the ability of our local elected representatives, primarily county commissions, to establish protections for their constituents, neighbors and community members from corporate industrial CAFOs. In the form of health ordinances, these protections include setbacks from residences, schools and public access areas, and setbacks for the spreading of untreated CAFO waste from properties and water sources. Twenty of Missouri’s rural communities currently have CAFO health ordinances supported by local family farmers and rural residents. More communities are looking toward those protections.

Senate Bill 391 would abolish local control of corporate CAFOs, the current 20 CAFO health ordinances and any future local protections.

Corporate lobbyists have successfully limited our rights to protect our families, water and air, and property rights in the court system, they have restricted the ability of our DNR to protect us from CAFOs and now they want to eliminate our last protection by taking away local control. They want it all and more, thus leaving us literally with no protections at all from permanent nuisances.

Senate Bill 391 would further dehumanize rural people in favor of corporate CAFO greed.

Call your state senators and tell them to show some respect for the rural community’s ability to have some dignity. Stand against this egregious taking of our property and human rights. Tell them to vote against SB 391.

Darvin Bentlage is a Barton County farmer and rancher.