By Diane Krizek
Tribune Reporter

Powell Gardens and the Lone Jack community were blindsided by the recent notice of a concentrated animal feeding operation to be constructed by Valley Oaks Steak Company in western Johnson County at 1921 S.W. Highway 50. It would’ve gone under everyone’s radar had it not been for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources permit requiring the notification of property owners within 3000 feet, or 1.5 times of the 2000 feet buffer, of the Class IB CAFO. Lone Jack residents immediately notified Power Gardens that is 3 miles away.

“Our members and neighbors are very concerned. We are a unique entity in the area and a beloved cultural organization celebrating its 30th year. We have been fielding concerned calls and responding to emails,” said Kalie Hudson, Powell Gardens Marketing & Sales Manager.

Powell Gardens have pushed for a public hearing on April 3, 6-8 p.m. at the Warrensburg Community Center. MODNR has not yet confirmed and has no obligation to hear from the public for a 1B CAFO as long as it meets the rules governing setback, water quality, waste management and disposal.

Meanwhile, the Lone Jack Neighbors for Responsible Farming was organized and is marshaling their community for a fight.

“What right does he have to infringe on our health and our property rights to benefit himself?” said a Lone Jack resident who wishes to remain anonymous. “We are no longer just a farming community. The Lone Jack area has several beautiful subdivisions with $300,000 plus homes on acreage, such as Paradise Hills and the elite Rock Lake Village that is only a mile and half away from the CAFO.”

The Ward family of Grain Valley has been breeding registered Angus since 1992 and launched Valley Oaks Steak Company in 2016 to bring premium locally raised beef from Lone Jack to the Kansas City area. “With the addition of our local feedlot and processing plant, Valley Oaks Steak Company provides a true farm to table experience!” states the website.

Valley Oaks claims a state of the art feedlot that houses all of its cattle under a roof that will maintain a healthy temperature so the cattle can live in a stress-free environment and have a comfortable lifestyle. Until slaughter, of course.

Their CAFO permit will allow them to increase their 500 head herd from 3,000 to 6,999 head on 400.7 acres making it a Class 1B operation. If they add one head to make 7,000, MoDNR would require a $5,000 annual NPDES Site Specific Permit which would additionally require flush wet handling inspections every 12 hours, reporting unauthorized discharges within 24 hours and an approved and implemented Odor Control Plan.

One head of cattle delivers 65 pounds of manure a day and 6,999 head creates 227 tons daily. The Lone Jack community are rightly concerned about toxic aroma and watershed and their property values plummeting. The Valley Oaks operation is located in a flood plain with access to waterways. A University of Missouri study found CAFO decreased the property values 6.6% to 88%.

The Warrensburg Daily Star Journal quoted Plant Manager Jake Huddleston’s response to a question about the handling of odors from methane gas at a local Farm Bureau luncheon.

“It’s a necessary evil,” Huddleston said. “We’re trying to take care of it as best we can to keep it at a minimum.”

He said the hides, offal and bones are sold and wastewater will be contained in lagoons that allow it to evaporate. Cattle not only need to be hydrated but a tremendous amount of water is required for slaughtering and processing the 80 to 100 head per day as planned.

Ron Brockhaus of Public Water Supply District No. 2 in Johnson County, reportedly said the operation used 188,000 gallons of water last month which has not adversely affected water pressure but could if more is needed.

Valley Oaks owners, David and Sandra Ward, live in Grain Valley and own home construction company Ward Development and Investment Co. that has several LLC subsidiaries: Woodbury Homes, Country Club Homes, Eagle Ridge Homes and Kansas City Homes. They also had Safety Mini Storage that was sold in 2014 and Valley Oaks Angus for their registered breeding stock.

In 2004, the Missouri Clean Water Commission ordered a Permanent Injunction against Sallee Realty and Ward Investments and accessed a $13,500 Civil Penalty against David L. Ward and Randall W. Sallee for violations “at the Wingate site.”

In 2007, Woodbury Homes pleaded guilty to a criminal charge of providing a false document stating that it had applied for a storm-water permit document to EPA’s Region 7 headquarters in Kansas City, KS. Maximum penalties imposed can be one year in prison, five years probation and up to $200,000 fine and $125 special assessment. David Ward paid $95,000 for five federal Clean Water Act violations.

Today the Ward family will not have to fear the Missouri Clean Water Commission. The commission voted in favor of CAFOs on Dec. 12 as soon as Governor Greitens appointed three new people to the commission all with ties to agriculture: Stan Coday, president of Wright County Farm Bureau; John Kleiboeker, former executive of the Missouri Beef Industry Council; and Patricia Thomas, chief of staff to Sen. Brian Munzlinger (R-Williamstown).

Sen. Munzlinger introduced legislation that removed the required four of seven seats for members of the general public. Now more than half the commission have ties to agriculture with Chairwoman Ashley McCarty, a cattle farmer from Kirksville and executive director of Missouri Farmers Care; attorney John “Ben” Hurst’s whose father is president of the Missouri Farm Bureau and John Reece of Lee’s Summit Wastewater Treatment Works. Kleiboeker is gone leaving two seats currently vacant.

One Lone Jack resident lament, “I was raised on a farm that raised beef. We were responsible farmers that maintained a healthy environment for our community. What we have now is a corporate industrial beef factory.”

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Valley Oaks proxmity to Flood Plains