Senate OKs large farm regulation, sends measure back to House

Thursday, May 6, 2004

JEFFERSON CITY, MO. -- Legislation revising Missouri's laws on large animal feeding operations and creating a process for adoption of stricter local rules won Senate passage Wednesday.

Approved on a 24-9 vote, the bill brings state law in line with federal regulations and definitions for large farms whose chief business is feeding and breeding large numbers of livestock.

Senators added several amendments before returning the bill to the House, and negotiations on a single version are likely.

As initially proposed, the bill would have effectively barred local governments from imposing design and operating standards on such farms that were more restrictive than federal and state law.

But the House amended the measure to preserve local governments' right to impose stricter standards. First, however, they would have to consult with local soil and water commissions -- often made up of farmers -- which would obtain supporting evidence.

Local governments would not have to adhere to the commissions' recommendations. But some senators said the process would still make it too difficult for local governments to enact strict ordinances.

"It just seems like a fairly unrealistic thing," said Sen. Joan Bray, D-St. Louis. "This is sort of a ruse."

The bill also moves the authority to regulate large animal farms -- which typically house poultry or hogs in huge barns -- from the Department of Natural Resources to the Clean Water Commission, a seven-member panel that sets rules and policies for the department's Water Pollution Control Program.

In addition, the bill would reduce penalties for accidental releases of pollutants into public waterways if the pollution were contained on a farm's property.

"In some cases, if nobody ever said anything, maybe nobody would ever know," said Sen. John Cauthorn, R-Mexico. "We would like the department to show some respect for individuals that come forward."

Cauthorn said he would work to ensure that the state's laws are on par with, not less stringent than, federal clean-water rules.

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Animal farming bill is HB1177.

On the Net:

Legislature: http://www.moga.state.mo.us

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