CP editorial: Patchwork of CAFO regulations harm rural communities

When it rained, janitors strategically placed trash cans in the hallways to catch the runoff that slipped through the holes in the ceiling of my high school.

Transparent layers of cellophane lined gaps in the ceiling tiles to funnel rainwater into the barrels. A spring shower meant soaked carpet, irritated teachers and smelly halls. If I revisited those hallways on a rainy day now, I wouldn’t have to dodge the trash cans. Ceilings were repaired summer 2018, and there’s one industry to thank—agriculture.

According to the Missouri Department of Agriculture, agriculture, forestry, and related industries contribute more than $1.3 billion to the local economy in the county where my high school is located. The production of hogs in Saline county alone contributes more than $48.5 million. As a Marshall High School alumna and a young woman passionate about learning, I am thankful for the economic support of agriculture. That economic strength benefits my school district indirectly.

While Saline County is my home, all 114 counties across the state benefit from agriculture’s impact. Ashley McCarty, a producer who raises beef cattle in a county experiencing similar economic influence, feels that animal feeding is the most effective solution to bringing value to rural counties across the state.

“The best way to grow our state’s largest industry is to add value to the products our state is already incredible at producing, like corn and soybeans,” McCarty said. “There is no better way to add value to the agricultural products than to turn them into pork chops or burgers rather than shipping this economic opportunity to our bordering states.”

However, this is most certainly not the case everywhere. Uproar surrounding issues pertaining to concentrated animal feeding operations have taken center stage in countless counties across the state of Missouri. Restrictive agriculture regulations, often billed as health ordinances, are an effort to shut down these operations. These regulations serve as a one-size-fits-all approach to zoning. They intrude into private property rights and limit entrepreneurship opportunity for local farmers and ranchers.

“In the end, these restrictive laws that vary from county to county form a patchwork of regulations that really discourage the development of animal feeding operations and rural communities,” McCarty said. “They lack a basic foundation of science to justify additional water quality or environmental protection.”

To combat this patchwork of regulations, the creation and implementation of consistent Missouri confined animal feeding operation laws across the state are designed for the long-term protection of the environment and to minimize risks. Regulations preserve and maintain a strong agricultural industry in our state for generations to come. Farmers and ranchers in the Show-Me State view this as a big-picture issue.  

As a whole, they value stewardship of the land and resources by operating farm businesses to leave the land and animals in better shape than when they began. As the economic foundation of county economies from Adair to Wright, it is in the best interest of Missourians that farmers and ranchers in their communities prosper for the long-term.