An environmental group has accused six officials of the
University of Missouri's College of Agriculture of illegally
supporting large hog-growing operations at the expense of clean
The Ozark Chapter of the Sierra Club filed a complaint Thursday
with the university's Board of Curators. The complaint alleges that
officials used their university positions to lobby for private
companies against tougher clean water regulations. The complaint
said the officials' actions violated academic ethics and standards,
and betrayed the public trust.
"Those people stepped way over the line," said Ken Midkiff, the
chapter's program director.
The essence of the Sierra Club's complaint is that university
officials have no business working on behalf of factorylike
hog-producing companies that endanger the watershed and other
aspects of the environment. While university extension service
officials often help farmers increase yields of grain and growth of
livestock, they should not offer advice that will undercut state
and federal environmental laws.
The complaint states: "We do know it is illegal to use public
funds for private purposes."
The six officials named in the complaint work in the
agriculture school's extension division or in its commercial
agriculture program. Earlier this year, five of the six testified
against some clean water regulations that had been proposed by the
staff of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
The sixth person named in the complaint is Rex Ricketts,
coordinator for the commercial agriculture program. The complaint
said Ricketts coordinated the opposition to the rules through a
newly formed organization called the Missouri Agricultural
Alliance. The group is made up of poultry, beef and pork producers
and the state Department of Agriculture.
In a telephone interview, Ricketts said he served as a
"convener" for the alliance.
"They asked that we bring the group together and provide
information at their request," Ricketts said. "We did the same
thing for them as we do with any other producer group."
Many of the regulations dealt with treatment of animal wastes
in confined animal-feeding operations, including sprawling
hog-growing complexes. University officials opposed such
suggestions as requiring monitoring wells in the ground near sewage
lagoons. They said monitoring would be too expensive.
The Clean Water Commission last month rejected some of the rule
changes suggested by the DNR staff.
One of the six officials named in the complaint is John Hoehne,
52, a commercial agricultural engineer in the university's
extension division. Based in Columbia, Mo., Hoehne has been working
with animal feedlot waste systems for 25 years. …