Powell Gardens is supporting a community effort to pass stringent health regulations for future Concentrated Animal Feed Operations (CAFOS) in Johnson County, Mo.

Johnson County Community Health Services (JCCHS) and Lone Jack Neighbors for Responsible Agriculture (LJNRA) recently announced they will draft proposed regulations designed to better protect public health. They will present their proposal to the Johnson County Commissioners by Jan. 1, 2019.

“Powell Gardens is thrilled that the JCCHS Board is taking our concerns seriously. This is an important step to protect our community against future threats like the Valley Oaks expansion,” says Tabitha Schmidt, CEO/president of Powell Gardens.

Powell Gardens continues its legal fight regarding a permit the Missouri Department of Natural Resources issued earlier this year allowing Valley Oaks Steak Co. to operate under a Class 1B CAFO permit. The permit allows the business to ramp up to 6,999 head of cattle, creating the largest beef CAFO in Missouri, and one that is subject to little oversight or regulation.
The final decision regarding the permit will be made on Oct. 23.

Meanwhile, the American Public Health Association (apha.org) called for a CAFO moratorium in 2003, and last month, news reports of animal carcasses and feces floating in flood waters after Hurricane Florence further illustrated the very real threats CAFOs pose to human health and the environment.

Throughout Missouri, CAFOS have been at the forefront of contentious debates pitting family farms against factory farms. Powell Gardens, the LJNRA and others have voiced their concerns regarding possible water contamination, air pollution and the spread of infectious disease, as well as irreparable harm to exotic plant species at Kansas City’s botanical garden.

At full capacity, the Valley Oaks CAFO will generate 290 tons of manure per day, the same amount of sewage as a city with a population of 210,000. The Valley Oaks CAFO has 880 residences located within a 3-mile radius. It also sits close to a 100-year flood plain and runs into Truman Lake.

“The point of (the resulting health regulation or ordinance) is to keep our county able to farm, and farm responsibly,” says LJNR founder Karen Lux, a centennial farmer who owns property adjacent to the Valley Oaks CAFO.

JCCHS Board of Trustees Administrator Anthony Arton will work with the various stakeholders on three possible strategies going forward:

• Petition the County Commissioners to pass regulations for CAFOs. If they adopt the strategy an ordinance would be passed without public vote.

• If the Commissioners do not support the regulations, the JCCHS could ask them for a resolution to send for a county-wide referendum that would appear on the municipal ballot in April 2019.

• The JCCHS Board of Trustees could pass a resolution to send the regulations to the ballot for voter approval.

“We have been looking at this for quite some time and have been monitoring the situation in Johnson County, but other counties as well,” says Scott Alvested, community outreach coordinator for JCHHS. “It’s our mission to protect the public health of our communities, and this extends beyond Valley Oaks.”