Ag waste bill concerns local farmer

Ag waste bill concerns local farmer
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Proposed agricultural legislation shifts environmental control from locals to the state.

Missouri Senate Bill 391 would strip away all existing county health ordinances against large agricultural operations, and some say that will allow them to dump waste closer to residential areas..

One Golden City farmer is fighting the bill.

Darvin Bentledge built his life around farming, tending to over 1,200 acres of cattle and crops, but for the past 12 years, he’s been busy fighting the growing stench around him.

“You never know when the smell is gonna hit you. You know, there’s different weather conditions that can bring it on. Of course, the wind has a lot to do with it.”

The stink comes from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO’s), dozens within a ten mile radius, one not even half a mile from Bentledge’s land.

“It has caused me to double up my vaccinations on my cattle to prevent them from getting the diseases that can cross species, and you also have to double up on your fly tags in the summer time to keep your cattle from wearing basically a fly blanket,” said Bentledge.

Currently, 20 counties in Missouri have ordinances in place to fight the agricultural waste produced by CAFO’s, but Bentledge says it’s not enough when smaller operations can fly under the radar as unclassified.

“Most states have more stringent laws to stay back from residences, churches, public access areas like parks, schools, but in Missouri, it’s just 50 feet, which is minimum EPA.”

Missouri Senate Bill 391 would take away any county restrictions that impose stricter distance and dumping regulations to encourage the CAFO’s industry, something that concerns one Missouri farming group.

“We believe that government is best when it’s closest to the people. That’s where people can be most engaged, within local policies, and they don’t like people being able to stand up for their rights, their property rights, their clean water, everything that goes along with living in rural Missouri and farming in rural Missouri,” said Tim Gibbons with the Missouri Rural Crisis Center.

More than that, though, Bentledge says this is a fight for human rights.

“It’s intimidating, it’s humiliating and it dehumanizes you.”

Bentledge is encouraging people to reach out to their local senator to stop Senate Bill 391, in an effort to prevent more agricultural waste from spreading.