by: Brian Hauswirth, Missouri Net

Missouri’s governor traveled to Sedalia this weekend for a ceremonial signing of legislation that supporters say will benefit agriculture.

About 700 people attended Saturday evening’s Missouri Cattlemen’s steak dinner at the state fairgrounds in Sedalia.

Governor Mike Parson (R) held a ceremonial signing of Senate Bill 391, which prevents counties from imposing regulations on concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) that are stricter than state regulations. House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, House Speaker Pro Tem John Wiemann, R-O’Fallon, and State Rep. Chuck Basye, R-Rocheport, were among the many lawmakers at Saturday’s event.

Governor Parson praises lawmakers for approving the bill, saying it signals that Missouri supports the next generation of agriculture.

“We’ve now opened the doors that will allow Missouri to lead the way in meeting a growing world food demand and ensure we keep more agriculture production in our state, strengthening Missouri’s number one industry,” Parson says.

The governor notes Missouri agriculture is an $88 billion industry, and remains the state’s top economic driver.

Critics of the legislation say this will prevent counties from protecting water and air.

The Missouri Rural Crisis Center’s Tim Gibbons spoke to our sister network Brownfield in May,saying lawmakers should be standing up for Missouri’s 100,000 family farms, not the approximately 500 concentrated animal feeding operations, known as CAFOs.

“We know that DNR (the state Department of Natural Resources) cannot and will not protect us from these absentee controlled operations,” Gibbons told Brownfield in May. “So local control is one way that farmers and people in rural counties have been able to put safeguards on these type of operations to protect the property rights, the property values, the water and air, the livability of our communities from industrial livestock operations.”

State Rep. Doug Clemens, D-St. Ann, who voted against the bill, told lawmakers in May that the CAFO operations are managed by owners who aren’t from the area.

“This isn’t about our family farms,” Representative Clemens said during House floor debate in May. “This is about corporate controlled industry, half of which is foreign-owned.”

The bill sponsors see it differently. State Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, and State Rep. Mike Haffner, R-Pleasant Hill, say it’s important to have a statewide policy, instead of various different restrictions at the county level.

The Missouri Corn Growers Association also praises the bill, saying it will bring positive market growth in Missouri for years to come. The Missouri Farm Bureau also backs the measure, and Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst attended Saturday’s bill-signing.

Under current Missouri law, the notice of intent to file an application for an operating permit for a new or expanded facility is sent to property owners within 1.5 times the buffer distances for CAFOs. The new law requires that the notice be given to property owners located within three times of the buffer distances, and the notices must now be sent by certified mail.

SB 391 also establishes the Joint Committee on Agriculture, which will study the economic impact of Missouri’s agricultural industry and will study ways to create incentives to encourage farmers to adopt best practices to scientifically address the state’s carbon footprint.

The new law is scheduled to take effect on August 28.