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Judge lifts order blocking CAFO bill, protections for large livestock operations now in place


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A Missouri judge has lifted an order which temporarily halted a new law governing county level restrictions of large livestock operations. 

Cole County Judge Daniel Green set aside a temporary restraining order last week which prevented SB 391 from going into effect. The case was originally assigned to Cole County Judge Patricia Joyce, who issued the temporary restraining order. 

“And now, without this temporary restraining order in place, the law [391] is clearly in effect across the state of Missouri,” Robert Brundage, the attorney representing the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, the Missouri Pork Association, and the Missouri Farm Bureau, told Brownfield Ag News. “And anyone who is adversely affected by any of these local health ordinances would be free to file any litigation against any counties trying to enforce these unlawful ordinances.”

“With the temporary restraining order being lifted, it makes counties vulnerable to being sued,” Jeff Jones, president of Friends for Responsible Agriculture, told The Missouri Times. He added that some counties with health ordinances on the books have received a “threatening” letter saying that the new law is retroactive. 

The next hearing in the legal challenge is set for December. 

At issue is SB 391, championed by Sen. Mike Bernskoetter and Rep. Mike Mike Haffner, which prohibits local governments from creating rules for agricultural operations stricter than those already imposed at the state level. 

SB 391 focuses on concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) — commonly referred to as feedlots or farms — where a large amount of livestock is confined for more than 45 days of the year. Missouri has about 500 cattle, hog, and poultry operations which fall under the definition of a CAFO. As far as experts are aware, the Show-Me State has no qualifying sheep farms. 

Pending the legal battle, no county commission or health center board would be able to establish ordinances or other rules on livestock feedlots that are more stringent than those already in place at the state level.

The new law was originally set to go into effect on Aug. 28, along with the other legislation passed by the Missouri General Assembly sans an emergency clause. However, Joyce hit the pause button on implementation earlier in August. 

The Cedar County Commission, Cooper County Public Health Center, Friends of Responsible Agriculture, and three farmers sued the Missouri Air Conservation Commission, Missouri Clean Air Commission, Gov. Mike Parson, Missouri Pork Producers Association, Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, and Missouri Farm Bureau Federation.

The argument centers around the constitutionality of SB 391. Those who filed the lawsuit alleged the law violated Missouri’s “Right to Farm” constitutional amendment — which guarantees the right to farm, subject to the authority of counties.

“This lawsuit is about the defense of local control. We are defending local control by blocking SB 391,” Jones said. “We are defending people’s voice so that it is not taken away.”