CAFO application withdrawn

Angie Talken
Chillicothe News

The application for a Class IB concentrated animal feeding operation, (CAFO), in Livingston County was withdrawn last week, according to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

A press release from Poosey Neighbors United, state that the document they received from DNR indicates that on April 6, 2021, United Hog Systems withdrew its application 

According to the permit application, the proposed Z-8 Sow Farm would have held 10,467 swine and used 12’ deep below-ground concrete manure containment structures to collect and store all hog waste. The proposed CAFO would be located near the Poosey Conservation Area and the Thompson River.

Livingston County Presiding Commissioner Ed Douglas said the commission was notified last Thursday.

The hogs in the proposed operation were going to be owned by JBS, a Brazilian corporation and the biggest meatpacker in the world. Tim Gibbons with the Missouri Rural Crisis Center said, in a press release that JBS has a history of "illegal behavior, such as fixing prices and violating federal anti-corruption laws."

The initial application was applied for in early 2020 and then withdrawn in September 2020. 

Throughout the process community members have voiced their concerns about bringing the CAFO to the county.

According to a press release from Poosey Neighbors United,  a grassroots organization formed to protect the Poosey Conservation Area and Livingston County from the adverse environmental effects of CAFOs in Livingston County, soil borings conducted in 2020 at the proposed site showed the presence of shallow groundwater at depths between 2-3 feet below ground surface. DNR regulations, however, require that the bottom of concrete manure containment structures be at least 2 feet above the groundwater table.

“Because of the shallow groundwater, our experts tell us the underground concrete pits will eventually crack and the hog wastes will pollute our groundwater,” said Susan Fair, member of Poosey Neighbors United.

“We believe the shallow groundwater at the site was a big problem for the CAFO,” said Bert Wire, another member of Poosey Neighbors United. “My family and I live less than a quarter-mile away from the site, and we are worried about the effects of the odors and all the hog waste on our groundwater."

Despite concerns about groundwater, certain DNR rule changes would have allowed the CAFO to be built.

“In December 2020, DNR proposed an emergency rule to change the current regulations that protect shallow groundwater in a way that would allow this CAFO to have been approved,” said Steve Jeffery, the attorney for Poosey Neighbors United. “But, a lawsuit was filed in Jefferson City to prevent DNR from using the emergency rule as a basis to issue any CAFO permits,” said Jeffery.

It is unclear why United Hog pulled the application.

“While we do not know the exact reasons why they withdrew their application, we remain vigilant about the importance of local control, plus wary that another CAFO does not take its place,” said Doug Doughty, a local farmer and supporter of Poosey Neighbors United. Doughty added, “But, for now, our group and community is relieved that this CAFO has decided to withdraw their application and not locate in Livingston County.”

Douglas noted that the company could reapply for the application, but they would have to start the process over, including payment of fees. 

"We do not really know what this means. I did not expect this, I guess I was surprised," Douglas said. "Last time they did resubmit but I do not know if they will and do not want to speculate."

The Livingston County Health Ordinance preventing CAFOs still stands, however, Senate Bill 391 does not allow the county to enforce standards that are stronger than DNR rules for CAFOs.

"As a commission, we feel strongly on maintaining regulations to protect the health and safety of the residents of Livingston County and the community as a whole," he said. 

Brian Smith with the Missouri Rural Crisis Center has spent the last two years working with citizens in Livingston County who oppose the CAFO. HE said from his experience the work and dedication to opposing by area residents do play a role in the process.

"Folks in Livingston County have consistently stood up and made their voices heard at local and state levels," Smith said. "In counties where the citizens stand up and get organized and oppose it - it is a much tougher process than in counties where they don't."