They obtained a stay from the Administrative Hearing Commission to stop construction of the chicken CAFO. That was at the end of July. Construction continues, and the Department of Natural Resources does nothing to enforce that stay. Huh?
Then there’s the Barry County Commissioner, John Starchman, who “neglected” to put the names of Mark Stephenson (pictured), one of those requesting the stay, and twelve other people on the agenda. They were not allowed to speak at that meeting of the county board. Another meeting was conveniently canceled without notice.
It’s “who’s bought and paid for,” Stephenson said after recalling how the health department meeting agenda was tabled last May after the department in response to what they labeled an “outburst from the audience,” had phoned the police.
Stephenson also called attention to Ozbun’s contract with George’s Processing, Inc. And who do you think gives legal advice for George’s? Why none other than Matt Blunt’s brother’s law firm, Stephenson replied.
Another way to say it, Mr. Stephenson, is that the barricades you’re facing are made of money.
Thanks to the Joplin Independent for the photo and for their fine article on the stonewall Stephenson and his friends are running into.
A determined coalition is up against the big boys here in Missouri on the issue of factory farms. People near Arrow Rock, Roaring River, and Battle of Athens are pitting themselves against, for starters, the Missouri Farm Bureau, a powerful organization indeed. When it tells the governor and Republican legislative leaders to jump, don’t look for them to be squatting in place. They know which side their campaign coffers are buttered on.
The Farm Bureau basically sells insurance to 100,000 Missourians, the majority of them farmers. It holds itself out as an advocate for family farms and claims to limit itself to agricultural issues. Neither is true. It speaks on many issues, and on none of them more adamantly than on CAFOs. There, it employs the stick–fear that if we overregulate CAFOs, Missouri’s hog and chicken raising industry will “move to Brazil”–and the carrot–CAFOs bring jobs to economically depressed areas. That jobs claim is hokum. A few people get to be hog janitors, others get to work in a processing factory, and everything about the industry is so integrated vertically by big ag that the peons are no better off than they ever were.
Whitney Kerr, a member of the coalition that is planning legal action to stop the CAFO near Arrow Rock, points out that the Bureau has never asked him or other ordinary members what stands it should take on any issue. Kerr feels that the Bureau is in cahoots with the industrial/agricultural giants and is carrying water for Tyson, Cargill, Smithfield, and MoArk, among others.
He objects to the Bureau’s claim that factory farms are the future of agriculture in Missouri. Twenty years ago, before CAFOs appeared in this state, hogs were raised in open fields and the manure was spread over a large area. Under those conditions, the streams and water table were safe.
But about 1994 CAFOs began appearing in Missouri. They often brought environmental depradation. Not only are the clean water supplies of any given area threatened by the concentrated application of feces, but those feces come from animals who have been given antibiotics all their lives. Furthermore recent studies show that many crops grown on ground where this “fertilizer” has been spread, soak up those antibiotics. That’s some fertilizer. The predominance of CAFOs means that we are eating antibiotics, so city dwellers, whether they know it or not, have a stake in this issue. As The League of Women Voters points out, “If you eat, you are involved in agriculture.”
Now if those hogs had been raised like those in the picture, with some room to breathe and move, instead of being crammed in so tight they can’t even turn, those antibiotics wouldn’t be necessary.
Furthermore, the CAFOs have put those who raised hogs in a humane, environmentally safe manner out of business. Today, 85 percent of small hog raisers are no more. Those few who still raise hogs on family farms are hard pressed to find buyers for their hogs because the big ag companies have contracted with CAFOs.
This sea change in Missouri agriculture has occurred in less than fifteen years. As the evils of the new system have dawned on those living in the middle of it, some have decided to resist. A group of resolute rural Missourians is fighting to preserve their homes as well as our state parks and historic landmarks against odor, against the threat of water pollution. They are taking to the field on behalf of small farmers being driven out of business by invading corporations.
The first two postings in this series were billed as part of a three-part series. I had barely an inkling then of how many facets the CAFO topic has. When I get to part Twenty of this three part series, that resolute band of Davids will still be contending with CAFOliath–not as if they can slay him but in the well grounded hope of exerting reasonable control. The Davids will work for smaller CAFOs with more humane treatment and no antibiotics, and for better waste management and watershed management. They’ll be pushing for legislation to keep CAFOs away from state parks and historic sites. More counties will enact health ordinances to protect themselves. CAFOliath won’t lie lifeless on the ground, but he might be tamed.
In defiance of the DNR’s constitutional mandate to protect the health and well being of Missourians, to protect the quality and quantity of water in the state, and to protect our state parks and historic sites, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is determined to license CAFOs.
As I reported in my last posting, the DNR just last Friday licensed a chicken CAFO on the uplands above Roaring River State Park, less than a mile from the park boundary, and it is set soon to do the same for a hog CAFO less than two miles from Arrow Rock State Park, close to the village of Arrow Rock, a picturesque historic site, known for its historic Lyceum Theater.
Despite noisy and often emotional protests from those who will be living with the stench and who are likely to lose their livelihood from the local tourist industry, the DNR has proceeded. Doyle Childers, DNR director, insists that he is bound by law to grant licenses to CAFOs that meet the legal standards for preserving local water quality. But that claim is …please pardon me …hogwash. Or, if you prefer, chickenshit.
He and his agency are doing far more than acquiescing to the law. They are bending the law–ignoring it, even–so that they can grant those licenses.
Consider: The DNR is bound by law to protect water quality. CAFOs, by their very nature, threaten local water supplies. As I mentioned before:
McDonald County, in the southwest corner of the state, has plants operated by Tyson, Simmons and MoArk, with CAFOs for all three corporations. Every water body in that county is on the impaired water bodies list. Despite the danger of water pollution, the DNR granted the Ozbun family [next to Roaring River State Park] final clearance last Friday to begin operating their chicken CAFO.
Any time a CAFO operator knifes tons of hog or chicken feces into a relatively small area of land, it can seep down into the water table.
Consider also: The DNR granted the license to the Ozbuns despite a stay (that is, a court injunction) against the continued construction of their CAFO. Citizens of Roaring River appealed to the Administrative Hearing Board for a stay on construction of the Ozbun chicken CAFO and it was granted. Nevertheless, the Ozbuns kept building and the DNR let them.
Once construction was finished, the DNR sent an engineer to certify that the CAFO had been constructed as designed. He refused to put his seal on it because the stay was still in effect. So the DNR sent another, more compliant engineer, who did affix his seal. And the license was granted.
Who cares about some silly old legal stay?
The arrogance of the DNR and Childers in thumbing their nose at the law fair takes one’s breath away, especially since they insist that (imagine here the sad wag of Childers’ head) they simply had no choice but to grant the license.
Consider, finally: The DNR is mandated by the state constitution to protect state parks and historic sites. Yet the feces from the Arrow Rock hog CAFO could be spread within fifty feet of the park boundary if a local landowner gives permission. Common sense–not to mention a dollop of empathy–would forbid allowing a CAFO in that vicinity. But if the DNR lacks common sense, it should at least obey the law and protect the parks and historic sites from the stench. Missouri has one of the best state park systems in the country, being consistently rated in the top five. No. Make that “HAD” one of the best state park systems.
Obviously, only legal action by committed citizens will stay Childers and the DNR from their cavalier disregard for our citizens and our natural resources. More on that topic tomorrow, in the last of this three part series.
All right, you city folk, buckle up, because I’m about to take you on a ride out into the country to find out about a battle that’s brewing. A group of Missourians is girding to fight more than City Hall. Citizens near the state parks in Arrow Rock, Roaring River and Battle of Athens are about to sue the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the state of Missouri over CAFOs (contained animal feeding operations).
The dispute began when landowners applied for CAFO licenses near those three state parks, and the DNR supported them at every turn against the objections of other locals. After all, a farm with 4800 hogs or 65,000 chickens stinks to high heaven. And aside from their own preferences about not having to live with that stench, many local landowners get their livelihood from the tourist industry in and around the state parks. (“Hey, Joe, what say we go down to Roaring River this weekend for some trout fishing?” “Sure. Sounds good.” “It is good, long as you don’t mind smelling chicken shit while you’re casting.” “Um, no thanks.”)
Roaring River State Park (the lodge is pictured above), in the southwest corner of the state, is a premier trout fishing site with a hatchery near the spring that feeds the stream. A local family, under contract with George’s Processing, Inc., a poultry company with facilities throughout northern Arkansas and southwest Missouri, applied for a license for a 65,600 chicken CAFO on the uplands above the spring, about a mile from the park boundaries. The DNR quickly granted the Ozbuns permission to begin building, despite community concerns about what would happen if the toxins from all that chicken poop found their way to the spring or the river.
The folks at Roaring River are right to be concerned about that possibility. McDonald County, in the southwest corner of the state, has plants operated by Tyson, Simmons and MoArk, with CAFOs for all three corporations. Every water body in that county is on the impaired water bodies list. Despite the danger of water pollution, the DNR granted the Ozbun family final clearance last Friday to begin operating their chicken CAFO.
A similar situation exists near Arrow Rock State Park, west of Columbia, where a 4800 hog CAFO is being planned less than two miles from the park line and from the historic town.
The DNR insists that it had to grant the Roaring River license and the Arrow Rock construction permit because state law mandates that it ignore the issue of odor and rule on whether or not a CAFO operation will affect the water table or local streams. Apparently, Doyle Childers, the head of the DNR, is not convinced that CAFOs might pollute the water. And there is no state law forbidding them because of odor or because of pathogens from the feces.
The planned lawsuit intends to force the state of Missouri to consider the problems of odor and pathogens.
Consider how newly built CAFOs deal with the feces. A given house for hogs or poultry is usually built now over a concrete vault, kind of like an inground swimming pool, about an acre in size and eight feet deep. The animals stand atop this vault on a concrete cover with slots in it for the waste to go through.
About twice a year, when the waste gets to seven feet deep, the pit is pumped out and the waste is spread over nearby fields. It can either be sprayed or knifed in (injected about two inches below the surface). Such a concentration of animal litter has often seeped down through soil and polluted Missouri streams.
Huge fans circulate the air in the CAFOs 24/7 because, if they stop, the air is so poisonous that the animals soon begin to die. If, for example, a power outage were to stop the fans, the hogs would begin to die within two hours from exposure to methane, hydrogen sulfide, and ammonia. The hogs are packed in so tight that they cannot even turn.
Aside from how disgusting it is to treat animals so inhumanely, consider how health-threatening it would be to live near such an operation.
Although no “conclusive evidence” has shown CAFOs are a source of diseases, Carlson [of the Department of Health and Senior Service] told the crowd, some studies have indicated CAFO odors affect quality of life and that pre-existing respiratory problems “may be exacerbated.”
Arrow Rock resident Shirley Gregory, who said she is asthmatic, contended state officials aren’t addressing her concerns.
“When I have to start walking around Arrow Rock with an oxygen tank on my back, they won’t care because the CAFO isn’t what made me sick in the first place,” she said.
The DNR has not only turned a deaf ear to such complaints but has, in its zealous support of CAFOs, ignored its own constitutional mandate to protect not only water quality but also state parks and historic sites. More on that topic tomorrow.