A Cole County Circuit Court judge has granted an injunction against Senate Bill 391 after a lawsuit filed by two Missouri counties, an organization opposed to concentrated animal feeding operations and three farmers.
This delays the law from going into effect until at least Sept. 16, and possibly forever if plaintiffs prevail. Cedar County, just north of Joplin, is one of the two counties that filed the lawsuit.
In the unlikely event that you have forgotten or were not aware, SB 391, sponsored by state Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, would require that county ordinances pertaining to agriculture be no stricter than state law, rules and regulations. SB 391 passed both the House and Senate and was signed by the governor.
But the lawsuit claims that SB 391 is unconstitutional and that it does not rescind county health ordinances adopted before Aug. 28 that deal with the particular topographical conditions, soil type and impacts on health (and consequently the concerns of residents) of the counties. At least 20 counties have passed such an ordinance.
The lawsuit was filed against the governor and the Missouri Air Conservation and the Missouri Clean Water commissions — the latter two are associated with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, which issues permits without consideration of local conditions. The lawsuit also names the Farm Bureau, Missouri Pork Producers and the Missouri Cattlemen's Association because each of these had publicly threatened to file lawsuits against counties that had adopted an ordinance that the counties claim was in the interest of protecting the health of residents and the environment.
SB 391 was adopted in spite of the overwhelming opposition of residents and groups representing family farmers. The Legislature seemed to be acting on the behalf of corporate agribusinesses and cast aside the concerns of its constituents. In short, the elected officials were representing the profit interests of outside businesses and not representing the interest of the residents of this state.
As previously noted, SB 391 is in no way retroactive. It does not contain any language that would make it so. However, it would negate any county health ordinance adopted after Aug. 28 — the effective date of the bill. That, however, is now in doubt pending a final decision of the judge. In the meantime, counties that have adopted health ordinances can rest a bit easier, and corporate interests cannot.
Quite a few of the organizations opposed to CAFOs are hosting a gathering in Springfield at the Moxie Cinema (305 S. Campbell Ave.) from 1-3 p.m. on Saturday. While the gathering's main purpose is to watch the film “Right to Harm," which features family farmers describing the harmful impacts of CAFOs, no doubt much of the discussion will be about SB 391 and the pending lawsuit.
Several prominent people will be on the panel, including Tim Gibbons, of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, and Todd Parnell, formerly of the State Clean Water Commission. After the film, there will be a panel discussion. In addition, the panel will also consist of Terry Spence, of the Sustainable and Responsible Agricultural Project; Melissa Vatterott, of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment; and Matt Wechsler, co-director of the movie. The panel will be moderated by Maisah Khan, of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment.
If you want to learn more about the lawsuit against SB 391 and general information on how CAFOs harm health, family farms and the environment, please attend. All of the folks on the panel are quite knowledgeable about family farms, CAFOs and the lack of oversight by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
Ken Midkiff lives in Columbia.