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Knox County Commissioners Visited By CAFO Opposition Last Monday

By Crystal Howerton

Following last Monday’s meeting of CAFO advocates, the critics answered back with a visit of their own on September 24.  As with any situation, there are always two sides and the issue of CAFO’s (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) is becoming increasingly complex.
Twenty-six citizens representing the four corners of Knox County gathered in the Commissioners office Monday morning to applaud the Commissioners efforts to locally control what they believe is a serious problem in Northeast Missouri.
Presiding Commissioner L.P. (Pete) Mayfield was quick to acknowledge that the Commission had made a grave mistake by not including a Class IV CAFO in the original Knox County Health Ordinance, adopted in March 2006.  Referring to the article of last week, Class IV operations are not regulated by DNR (Department of Natural Resources) and currently not incorporated in our county health ordinance.  According to Mayfield, of all the surrounding counties’ health ordinances, Knox County’s is the only one that does not include a Class IV.  In response to public opinion, the County Commission recently made a proposal to amend the ordinance to include a Class IV, however there are still a number of residents, particularly farmers and livestock producers, in the community that disagree.   Farm Bureau officials and other supporters tend to believe that the public’s main complaint concerning CAFO’s is the presence of odor.
"As a Farm Bureau member, as well as farmer and livestock producer, my opinion differs from that of Farm Bureau officials on this particular issue," stated Larry Walker, who lives west of Knox City.  "In my opinion, I don’t feel that people are trying to necessarily stop CAFO’s, so much as finding limitations that we can live with."
Gary Downing agrees.  "If we don’t set regulations now, this issue is going to be out of control before we know it," said Downing.  "I appreciate my neighbors’ need to make a living, however, I also feel that companies such as Cargill are taking advantage of them."  Downing, a home and business owner, living west of Baring on Hwy. 11, also commented on the quality of his life being effected by the odor and flies, etc. associated with neighboring operations.
CAPE member Pam Stokes says that while the unpleasant odor is certainly a factor, they are more concerned with the inevitable possibility of water and air pollution in Northeast Missouri and the effect it will have on the general population.  CAPE (Citizens Against a Polluted Environment) formed in fall 2005 as a result of the construction of Newport Farms, LLC, a Class II swine operation on the Knox/Macon County line on Hwy. 156.
Harry and Kathy Best live two and one-half miles from the swine operation.  They are concerned about the contamination of water on Saling Branch, a creek that travels north to south through their property, as well as the property on which the swine operation is located.  According to Best, the creek dumps into Salt River that, in turn, contributes to the water supply at Mark Twain Lake, which serves as the rural water supply for much of Northeast Missouri.
Although Knox County Health Department’s Environmental Public Health Specialist Gregg Fast said that the possibility of water pollution was under DNR regulations, he did discuss the risk of air pollution and the effect it might have on the general population.   Fast said that the NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) workplace standards on air quality are designed with healthy people in mind and that the areas surrounding these operations are not to exceed limits placed within the workplace.  However, those who live nearby who are not considered "healthy" for one reason or another (elderly, young children, asthmatics, those suffering from allergies or immune deficiencies, etc.) may not be able to withstand the conditions placed with the healthy worker in mind.  
"The safest bet for these operations would be to follow Better Management Practices, currently under consideration at a national level, such as limit odor by using filters to trap dust particles and disposing of waste through injection as opposed to top applications, therefore limiting exposure to the general population."