All over the state, opponents of Missouri CAFOs have been firing between circled Conestogas and waiting for the cavalry to arrive. In historic Arrow Rock Village, for example. Early in 2007, the Department of Natural Resources granted Dennis Gessling a permit to build a 4,800 hog concentrated animal feeding operation two miles from the little town near Columbia–a town that relies on its decades-old summer theater performances and tourism to survive.
Local citizens organized and by October of 2007 had filed suit against the DNR and Doyle Childers, its director, for failing in one of the Department’s mandated duties, the requirement that it protect state historic sites and parks. The pioneers could hear far off bugles, barely audible above the gunfire that fall, when Jay Nixon, the man everyone figured for the next governor, spoke at the 25th anniversary celebration of the Missouri Parks Association:
“I believe that our state is headed in the wrong direction on many fronts, including the protection and preservation of our natural resources, our parks and our historic sites. [emphasis mine]
The settlers held off the assault from Gessling by convincing Cole County Circuit Judge Patricia S. Joyce to rule in their favor. On August 25th of last year, Joyce criticized the DNR for failing to protect the historic site and established a fifteen mile buffer zone, prohibiting CAFOs within that zone.
Although the ruling applied only to Gessling–and despite the fact that his permit expired on August 30th without the proposed facility being built–in September Big Chief Childers of the DNR, in cahoots with the Missouri Farm Bureau and a group of agriculture organizations, filed motions objecting to the ruling. Judge Joyce, still critical of DNR failure to protect historic sites, reduced the buffer zone to two miles.
So not only did the DNR fail in its duty to protect Arrow Rock, it … persisted in pushing for a ruling to benefit a CAFO that wasn’t going to be built? Yes, and in fact, it’s still fighting that battle, even though Dennis Gessling has, months since, walked away from the whole mess.
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has confirmed that on Dec. 18, 2008, the agency filed an appeal with a the Missouri Court of Appeals Western District asking it to overturn a ruling by Cole County Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce regarding a confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) proposed but never built by the Gessling family of Saline County.
Doyle Childers has resigned, effective January 12th, but DNR spokeshole Kara Valentine skates past the notion that a Democratic governor would drop the appeal.
Valentine said that while she doesn’t foresee the new administration changing or dropping the appeal, she said, “they may have thoughts on the direction that they want the appeal to go.”
Valentine “doesn’t foresee” Nixon dropping it? “Doesn’t foresee it?” Well, I foresee it. She’s definitely not in Kansas anymore. She’s surely got to know that Nixon said:
“We must join together to protect our parks as well as our rural farmland from the factory farm and the resulting emissions, runoff and smells. [emphasis mine]
So Miss Kara assumes that Nixon will be eager to ride Doyle’s hobby horse and pursue an appeal to save a CAFO that’s already dead–contrary to Nixon’s stated position opposing CAFOs. Right. Okay, that one ain’t gonna happen. But before you decide that such self-delusion proves the lady is non compos mentis, consider what Farm Bureau President Charles Kruse said after he and his cohorts pressured Judge Joyce to amend her August ruling:
“We are pleased the judge modified her August ruling by clarifying it applies only to the proposed Gessling operation near Arrow Rock, Missouri; however, the fact is there remains no demonstrated need to impose a buffer over and above what is already required by state law and this ruling could set a needless and harmful precedent.
“Harmful precedent.” The situation in a nutshell.
Look. Jay Nixon’s administration may be the cavalry. Think of press conferences as his bugle. For ammunition, he has the power to appoint the Director of the DNR and to use the veto pen if the Republican lege acts up. But Big Ag is better funded than the Injuns were. And it has the sort of legal weapons that could have made Crazy Horse governor of the Dakota territory.
Oh, and don’t forget Big Ag’s willingness to speak with forked tongue:
“Missouri Farm Bureau attempted to intervene in this case as we cannot ignore the fact that production agriculture in the U.S. is under attack. Our nation’s family farmers and ranchers are facing challenges on every front. Regulations whether imposed by administrative rule or court order, must be based on science and fact, not emotion, misinformation and legal technicalities,” Kruse said.
Conflating Big Ag with family farmers is 180 from the truth. And Big Ag is under attack? It’s had the legislature, the boy gov and the DNR in its hip pocket for the last four years. But the bit that makes me splutter is the insinuation that opposition to CAFOs is not based on science.
Those lying, delusional bastards who run rural families out of business and poison the environment want sympathy from their victims?! Breathe, girl, breathe. And remember that the cavalry is coming.
Thank goodness for that, but I don’t look for the Farm Bureau to lay down its weapons just because a Democratic governor has sounded the charge.