I attended the March 15, 2022 Camden County Commission meeting at 10:00 a.m.
All commissioners were present and they actually had their microphones turned on.
There were at least a dozen other people sitting in the audience so it looked like we were going to have a pretty active meeting.
During Public Comment, the audience members spoke in support of repealing Camden County’s ordinances that currently do not allow CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations).
There were quite a few speakers and I’ll summarize what they had to say.
Camden County currently has two ordinances that do not allow CAFO.
Missouri SB 391 took effect on August 28, 2019.
This bill states “Under this act, any orders, ordinances, rules, or regulations promulgated by county commissions and county health center boards shall not impose standards or requirements on an agricultural operation and its appurtenances that are inconsistent with or more stringent than any provisions of law, rules, or regulations relating to the Department of Health and Senior Services, environmental control, the Department of Natural Resources, air conservation, and water pollution.”
Essentially, the bill states that the two Camden County ordinances restricting CAFO cannot be enforced and are in violation of Missouri state law. Several Missouri counties have already lost court cases over CAFO ordinances and at least one of the cases has been appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court.
Repealing the CAFO ordinances will make Camden County an “Agri-Ready” county. This designation will encourage agricultural production in Camden County, creating more jobs and boosting the agricultural economy.
Commissioner Hasty stated that the CAFO ordinances were established in approximately 1997 in response to outcry about a large scale hog feeding operation that was planned in Camden County.
The public commenters responded that new technology has greatly improved the techniques used in concentrated feeding operations. They are now much cleaner and safer for the surrounding environment. They are also more carefully regulated by DNR and the USDA regarding nutrient usage and disposal of animal waste.
There is an established Missouri permitting process that proposed CAFO will have to follow. The Missouri law establishes a buffer zone of 1.5 miles around CAFO and the permitting process includes public comment from property owners who live within 4.5 miles of proposed CAFO.
Commissioner Williams’ district contains the majority of Camden County’s agricultural land. He said that he has been aware of the issue and has been waiting for at least two years to see what the final legal resolution would be from the Missouri Supreme Court.
One public commenter asked why the Commission was waiting for the Supreme Court to rule? He felt they should just repeal the ordinances now.
Commissioner Williams mentioned he has received calls from two of his constituents who were worried about the impact large hog feeding operations would have in their neighborhoods. The audience asked why those people weren’t at the meeting to voice their concerns?
According to one audience member, Missouri DNR won’t allow large scale hog feeding operations like the ones that are in Kansas because our soil drains differently from the soil in Kansas.
Ike Skelton (who is running for Presiding Commissioner) told the Commission he supports any policy that is less restrictive on land owners. He made it clear to the Commission that he felt a repeal of the ordinances would be better for agriculture in the county.
Commissioner Hasty told the audience, “I’m the type of guy who wants people to have as much freedom over their own property as possible.” However, he didn’t want to make a “shoot from the hip” decision.
According to Hasty, the biggest concern from the public seems to be with the hog feeding operations and the bad smell associated with them.
Commissioner Gohagan stated he is favor of repealing the CAFO ordinances. Commissioner Williams wanted to hear more input from the public. Commissioner Hasty said he wasn’t comfortable just “pulling the trigger” and repealing the ordinances.
I started to wonder if I was at a Camden County Commission meeting?
There was a lot of agreement between the commissioners and the audience members that the combination of rising land prices, expensive equipment, and the restrictions on CAFO were making it impossible for young farmers to establish their own farms. Everyone acknowledged that CAFO would allow farmers to raise more animals on their acreage and make better profit margins on their farms.
There was some discussion among the commissioners if having a Planning and Zoning District in Camden County would prevent the county from receiving an Agri-Ready designation. Commissioner Gohagan whipped out his cell phone and immediately made a call to check on that. The person he talked to said that Camden County’s zoning district shouldn’t keep them from being Agri-Ready.
Commissioner Gohagan again stated he was in favor of repealing the CAFO ordinances and asked Commissioner Williams to make a motion since the CAFO would be in his district. Commissioner Hasty expressed his relief that he wouldn’t have to vote on this issue. And then everyone looked at Commissioner Williams.
After some thought, Commissioner Williams said he wanted to hear from more of the public and wanted to table the matter until next week. One lady asked if the Commission could have an evening meeting to discuss it.
An evening meeting? Okay, now I knew I was definitely in the wrong county!
The Commission voted to table this matter until next Tuesday (March 22) at 6:30 p.m.
Nobody in the audience wanted to talk about anything but the CAFO item, so the Commission then addressed the second agenda item which was Camden County’s Verizon Contract.
The contract was approved and signed by the Commission.
The third agenda item was the Medical Missions for Christ renovation. Their equipment and facility is outdated and needs to be overhauled. The cost will be $224,050.
The Auditor stated that BKD (Camden County’s ARPA consultant) told him that $138,000 of the renovation costs were not eligible for ARPA funding. There was then more discussion about the Treasury Department’s Final Rule which established that counties receiving less than $10,000,000 in ARPA money can use it for whatever they desire.
The Commission voted to table this agenda item until next Thursday.
The final item was for the Magic Dragon Trail. This is an organization that is planning to build a recreational bicycling trail network in the Lake of the Ozarks.
The Commission had previously earmarked $150,000 in ARPA money for this project. They voted unanimously to provide this money to the Magic Dragon Trail.
And that was that.
I found it a bit bizarre that the Commission had been waiting for two years to see what happened to SB 391 in the courts before repealing the CAFO ordinances. In the meeting, they seemed to support the idea of allowing Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations and a lot of lip service was paid to the importance of supporting local farmers and agriculture.
They could repeal these ordinances whenever they wanted to repeal them. Instead of just doing that, they were waiting to see the outcome of a state bill that would force them to repeal them? I don’t need to tell you what THAT smells like.