Missouri’s Cooper County passes manure handling ordinance
The Cooper County Public Health Center Board of Trustees passed an ordinance Friday regulating livestock manure. The ordinance, which was pared back significantly from its original draft, requires a nutrient management plan from anyone applying manure. Cooper County farmer Dean Gibson opposed the ordinance, because, he tells Brownfield, it makes it difficult to use what he considers a valuable resource.
“What’s that going to do with our supply of manure,” asked Gibson, during an interview with Brownfield Ag News following Friday’s vote. “The supply of manure that we have to get rid of in the poultry operations is going to stay in Moniteau County or other counties rather than come up to Cooper County where we need it desperately as a nutrient right now.”
It’s on Gibson’s property that a proposed concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) is to be built.
Susan Williams, who lives about a mile from that CAFO site, pushed to have the ordinance passed because of her concerns about how waste from the facility would be handled.
“We spent months working with land owners who are going to receive the manure and we still didn’t have an agreement on land application,” Williams told Brownfield, “so we’re pleased that the county has put that in place to make us feel more assured of that.”
The lone ‘no’ vote – there were four votes cast – came from board member Susan Felton, who tells Brownfield state regulation of nutrient application is adequate.
“I feel like we’ve already got a regulating body that’s doing a good job,” said Felton, referring to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) that currently oversees manure handling and livestock operations in Missouri. “I didn’t see a need to double-regulate an industry.”
That’s not the view of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center (MRCC), which intervened on behalf of Cooper County residents who favored putting an ordinance in place.
“What we have found, and what we know to be true, is the DNR cannot protect us,” said Tim Gibbons, a representative of the MRCC, who contends that Missouri laws are less effective than environmental regulations passed at the local level.
The ordinance as passed Friday is less stringent than what was first drafted. The original proposal, for instance, to regulate Class II CAFOs, those with fewer animal units, was dropped.
Cooper County farmer Nathan Alpers, who regularly fertilizes fields with poultry litter, tells Brownfield enforcement of environmental regulations should not be at the county level.
“It’s DNR’s job,” Alpers told Brownfield. “It should be done at a state level.”
The board has been grappling with the issue for months after Pipestone Systems announced plans to build a large hog operation, known as Tipton East, in Cooper County.
Attorney Brent Haden, representing several farmers in the county, questions whether this type of regulation is in the board’s jurisdiction.
“They’re not supposed to be in the environmental regulatory business,” said Haden. “They have not shown and cannot show that any of the regulations they’ve put in effect here are going to matter one bit to the prevention of any of the diseases that they are in charge of preventing.”
Consideration of the ordinance divided county residents, some of whom want greater regulation of CAFOs, while others feel restrictions beyond state laws will discourage agricultural economic development.
“I think that the average operation, to look at (Cooper) County versus a county that’s actually friendly to livestock operations, it’s going to make a difference,” said Haden.
The ordinance takes effect immediately.