Rumors of hog farm lead to health ordinance

Sunday, November 25, 2007

GREENFIELD, Mo. -- Rumors about a large hog farm coming to Dade County in southwest Missouri have prompted the county's commissioners to pass a controversial health ordinance.

Reports have been circulating about a corporation possibly acquiring options to buy 10,000 to 20,000 acres of land north of Lockwood. Dade County commissioners decided to get ahead of the matter -- unanimously approving a health ordinance last week.

The ordinance requires strict handling of animal waste and establishes setbacks of one-quarter mile to one mile for different sized Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations from other CAFOs and from homes.

"I've never felt better about doing anything before in my whole life," said Presiding Commissioner Carl Beerly of passing the ordinance. "With these [CAFO] farms, everything leaves, nothing stays in the county. They have their own feed farms and all the property values go down for the surrounding houses."

The ordinance is patterned after one in Linn County, Mo., which Beerly said was chosen because it had already withstood court challenges.

Beerly said he hopes the ordinance discourages large animal farms from moving into the county. And if they do come, he said, at least there will be regulations for them to follow.

Not everyone thinks the ordinance is the right move. Dairy farmer Brian Patton, who lives north of Lockwood, called the ordinance "a knee-jerk reaction to something that might happen."

Patton said health ordinances should protect public health, not regulate farming.

His dairy operation houses about 650 cows and is considered a Class 4 CAFO. He said the operation is in compliance with the new ordinance and grandfathered in under the law, but he's concerned about what could happen to his farm in the future if his children decide to expand the operation.

"I've not heard a lot of good stuff about [health ordinances] for the practical side of farming," Patton said. "We already have a structure in place with [the Missouri Department of Natural Resources] on the state level."

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