Amidst COVID-19 outbreaks throughout our food system and meat processing plant closures, the Department of Natural Resources is still permitting new CAFOs in our state.
On July 7, 2020, the Department of Natural Resources’ Water Protection Program (DNR WPP) issued a General State Operating Permit to Tompkins Family Farms, LLC. The newly-permitted facility will be a Class IB CAFO near Iona in Benton County north of Truman Lake. We were surprised by this news at MCE because the application for Tompkins Family Farms, LLC was not posted on DNR’s ‘Current New and Expanded Facility Applications’ list nor posted for public notice – so we investigated. Here’s what we learned:
- DNR received the permit application for Tompkins Family Farms, LLC on April 30, 2020
- The application for Tompkins Family Farms, LLC was not posted on the DNR’s ‘Current New and Expanded Facility Applications’ list because:
- DNR is not required to maintain a list of pending applications
- The webpage currently reads that “this service has been temporarily disrupted” – presumably to prioritize COVID-19 adjustments
- There was no public notice or public comment period for Tompkins Family Farms, LLC application because:
- Tompkins Family Farms, LLC applied for a General State Operating Permit (MOGS1)
- Public notice and public comment requirements only pertain to NPDES permits (MO01 and site-specific)
- DNR responded to these concerns and proceeded to issue Tompkins Family Farms, LLC a General State Operating permit on July 7, 2020
In conclusion: DNR did not act illegally, but we believe Missourians should be informed of all CAFO permits while they are under consideration.
When we contacted DNR, staff explained that they only post permit applications that “seem to have public interest” on the webpage. Our question: how do they expect the public to demonstrate interest in a facility that they don’t know about?
Without a public notice for this permit application, the only members of the public that received notice of the Tompkins Family Farms, LLC were neighbors living within 6,000 feet of the proposed CAFO site. Six neighbors submitted comments voicing their concerns, including:
- Smell of manure and decomposing animals
- Impact on property value
- Runoff entering creeks (Brush Creek which enters Truman Lake)
- Drinking water contamination
- Increased truck traffic
- Near the Madrid fault line (tremors could cause waste containments to break)
DNR responded to these concerns and issued Tompkins Family Farms, LLC a General State Operating permit nonetheless. We share neighbors’ concerns about the water quality impacts, environmental and public health hazards this facility may bring to the surrounding community. In addition to these concerns, we know that existing CAFOs have been increasing their animal capacity and slaughtering livestock on-site because COVID-19 outbreaks have forced meat processing plants to close. Because of these disruptions in the food system, DNR is also offering CAFOs certain enforcement discretions through December 30, 2020.
We share neighbors’ concerns about the water quality impacts, environmental and public health hazards this facility may bring to the surrounding community. In addition to these concerns, we know that existing CAFOs have been increasing their animal capacity and slaughtering livestock on-site because COVID-19 outbreaks have forced meat processing plants to close. DNR is offering CAFOs certain enforcement discretions through December 30, 2020 due to disruptions in the food supply chain, but reducing regulatory oversight will only make CAFOs a greater public health hazard.
DNR is struggling to manage existing CAFOs during COVID-19. Especially given the heightened public health concerns at this time, we demand more transparency from DNR regarding new facilities. Please email DNR today asking that all permit applications be posted on their webpage so Missourians can stay informed about facilities that may enter their communities and have the opportunity to express interest before permits are approved.
It’s not too late to take action! See the following ways that you can get involved by demanding transparency from DNR, supporting MCE’s CAFO action work, and asking for a moratorium on CAFO permit approval.
- We’ve been told that DNR only posts certain permits on this webpage when there is public interest in the operation at issue – yet, without notice of the operation, most people will not be aware of its pending permit. Call Chris Wieberg, director of the DNR Water Protection Program at 573-751-1300 and tell him that Missouri citizens need all permit applications posted on the ‘Current New and Expanded Facility Applications’ page as soon as possible in order to express interest in the proposed operations.
- Join MCE’s CAFO Action Network. Sign up here to join the Network and receive rapid-response emails when we see something needs citizen input. You can also use our new CAFO Toolkit to find resources for taking action against CAFOs.
- Donate to MCE to help expand our CAFO work. The COVID-19 crisis has shed light on the brokenness of our industrial food system and the urgent need to shift towards a more equitable, sustainable, and transparent system. Support this work through MCE’s CAFO fund here.
- Sign the Missouri Rural Crisis Center’s petition to Governor Parson, demanding an immediate moratorium on approving new CAFO permit applications during the COVID-19 public health crisis.