A bill that would prevent local officials in Missouri from regulating industrial farms more strictly than the state does is heading to the desk of GOP Gov. Mike Parson, a cattle rancher who seems likely to sign the measure into law.
The Republican-led House passed the measure Tuesday on a 103-44 vote. It is directed at protecting the interests of industrial farms known as concentrated animal feeding operations, which can produce beef, pork, poultry, dairy and eggs more efficiently than traditional farms can but also stoke concerns about air and water pollution.
If signed into law, the bill would ban counties from enacting regulations for the large farms that are "more stringent" than the state's regulations. Republican supporters of the bill argued that some local governments that are unfriendly to industrial farms threaten to regulate them out of existence.
At least 20 counties have imposed additional regulations and fees on animal feeding operations through health ordinances, according to data from the University of Missouri Extension. Another nine counties and townships enacted zoning regulations.
House bill handler Rep. Mike Haffner told colleagues on Tuesday that consistent rules across the state will help family farms that shift to profitable industrial operations in order to survive.
"This is about agricultural development, it's about jobs, it's about food security and it's about consistency," the Pleasant Hill Republican said.
Passage of the bill was lauded by the state's largest farming interest groups and the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
"By ensuring that farmers across all counties in Missouri have an equal and fair opportunity to utilize modern agriculture practices, this bill will help them remain competitive in the national and global marketplace," the chamber's president and CEO, Daniel P. Mehan, said in a statement.
Critics raised concerns about the loss of local control and questioned the need for change, arguing that large animal feeding operations have been successful in the state under current laws.
St. Louis Democratic Rep. Tracy McCreery also raised environmental concerns. She said if the bill is enacted, "we are going to go from being the clean state of Missouri to a very dirty state very quickly."
Changes made to the bill during an overnight debate in the Senate include requiring that liquefied manure from the farms be applied at least 300 feet from public drinking water lakes and 100 feet from streams.
St. Louis-area Democratic Rep. Doug Clemens simply called the bill "hogwash."