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It's a particularly tense debate being played out in rural communities across the country, but most recently at a heated meeting in Knox County, Missouri, where residents voiced concerns over local concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) and whether or not the county's health ordinance is being properly enforced.
The conversation is especially timely. Here's a round-up of activity just this month: In Missouri, House Bill 209 and Senate Bill 187 would restrict compensation for damages caused by CAFOs. In Idaho, lawmakers are considering a move to shield data related to CAFOs from the public. In Iowa, lawmakers are considering a bill that would make it illegal for activists to film farm operations while undercover; while a Florida bill was introduced that would make photographing a farm a felony. (That bill has since been amended to target those who trespass on private land.)
Add to that, two weeks ago a federal court of appeals ruled that the EPA cannot require livestock farmers to apply for Clean Water Act permits unless manure from the farms are actually discharged into U.S. waters.
At the same time, concerns over drug resistant bacteria and its connection to antibiotic use in livestock is mounting. That's certainly a worry for Lynn Bradley who attended the Knox County meeting on Monday.
Bradley's neighbor put up a hog CAFO that could house up to 10,000 baby pigs or 4,500 adult hogs shortly after Bradley moved back to her childhood farm a few years ago. There are a total of 13 CAFOs in Knox County.
"If the wind comes from the west, the smell can be horrifying," she says. "I worry about the antibiotics used in the feed and how they're affecting people's health and antibiotic resistant bacteria. They're starting to make links," she told Slashfood.
According to the Herald-Whig, local farmers there say CAFOs are key to their ability to make a living, while state funding limitations have impacted regular unannounced inspections of CAFOs.
"With agriculture the backbone of our economy, I hope the commission doesn't enforce unnecessary laws so we can continue to make a livelihood off our CAFOs," said farmer John Good, quoted in the Herald-Whig story.
Monday's meeting over enforcement of the health ordinance may not result in immediate action, however.
"As commissioners, we'll take that information, but we have more research we need to do on the issues and legalities of it before we amend the health ordinance," Knox County Presiding Commissioner Evan Glasgow told Slashfood.
But, he says, it won't impact existing CAFOs.