Many residents of a rural southwestern Missouri county are critical of a state law that restricts how much local authorities can regulate industrial feedlots and say they feel betrayed by their local representatives who backed the legislation.
Speakers at a community meeting last week in Cedar County said they supported ordinances introduced by county commissioners designed to protect them from the massive hog farms that they say cause pollution and depreciate property values, the Springfield News-Leader reported .
Ed McEowan said a hog-raising operation opened up next to his home in the southeast of the county more than a decade ago. He spoke of how going outside or even opening windows became impossible due to the smell of ammonia and feces, and the sound of thousands of hogs squealing. The value of his property dropped.
“Then the depression comes, because you feel like everything you’ve ever worked for on the place and built up has all come to nothing,” McEowan said.
County rules now in place prevent industrial farms from setting up too close to homes and vulnerable waterways that could become polluted by manure runoff, according to county treasurer Peggy Kenney.
“We didn’t do it to keep anyone out,” she said. “We didn’t do it to hinder agriculture in any way.”
The legislation signed into law last month prevents counties from adopting stricter rules governing concentrated animal feeding operations than those at the state level. The law takes effect Aug. 28.
Tim Gibbons, the Missouri Rural Crisis Center’s communications director, called the legislation “an attack on our fundamental rights” that must be stopped.
Attendees applauded a proclamation that communities need “local control, not corporate control” and that their “future depends on it.”
In a separate interview, Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst told the newspaper that his parents live about a quarter of a mile from an operation in northwest Missouri. He said the smell is only an issue a few days a year, and the well water is just fine.
“We’re living the dream here, and it has not changed our quality of life,” he said.
Rep. Warren Love, whose district covers northern Cedar County, said he voted for the bill, and that if residents don’t like the rules, they know what to do.
“If you want to live where there’s no livestock, go live somewhere in the city limits,” Love said.