Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Hog Waste Spills Generate Stream of Bills Legislators Seek Rules for Large Farms

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Hog Waste Spills Generate Stream of Bills Legislators Seek Rules for Large Farms

Article excerpt

Recent hog waste spills that fouled streams and killed fish are provoking lawmakers to draft bills to regulate high-volume swine farms.

Missouri legislators, concerned about accidents from factory-type hog operations, have been filing bills to give the state more authority over large, confined-animal feeding operations.

Last year, nine spills leaked manure-laden waste from large hog farms in northern Missouri. Some of the accidents killed thousands of fish.

"We must eliminate any future spills that affect the quality of our environment," said Rep. Phil Tate, D-Gallatin.

Tate was an early booster of the big companies that raise large numbers of hogs in his northern Missouri district. On Thursday, he filed a bill that would increase inspections and impose a 2-cent-per-animal tax to finance them.

It's one of several measures that will compete for lawmakers' attention this session. Farm organizations and environmental groups already are lobbying the General Assembly for increased regulation of industrial-type agricultural facilities. Their wish list includes empowering counties to enforce zoning laws, increasing economic opportunities for family farmers and authorizing the state to limit the concentration of animals.

"There is a limit to the number of animals that can be supported by a piece of land," said Rep. Thomas Marshall, D-Marshall. He has in his district several operations that concentrate large numbers of hogs and chickens in confined spaces.

Hogs, chickens and turkeys are raised around the state in confined, intensive feeding operations.

Marshall has introduced a bill that would establish a commission within the state Department of Agriculture with broad powers to regulate operations with more than 15,000 animals. Marshall said his bill would give the commission "absolute authority" to decide whether and where intensive animal operations could be located.

Rep. Dale Whiteside, R-Chillicothe, said he had drafted an amendment that would ensure small family farmers would be offered the same economic development benefits and tax breaks that the big operations get.

It's not the first time the Legislature has dealt with "mega hog" operations. …

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