Who can you call about animal manure in the creek? What can you do about a bill that will make it easier for factory farms to move into your county? How can you advocate for your local, independent farmers who don’t get a fair market share because CAFOs dominate production? Being an advocate for Missourians and our environment starts with understanding what tools we have to take action.

Photo by Friends of Poosey. Sign by Lone Jack Neighbors for Responsible Agriculture.

Factory farming has negative impacts on the human, animal, environmental and economic well-being in Missouri. Recognizing the need to protect our health and our communities, MCE put together the CAFO Toolkit in the summer of 2020 to give you the resources you need to “watchdog” Missouri CAFOs environmental concerns and regulatory violations. This July, we came together virtually for our first action training on the resources in this toolkit. Understanding our tools is the first step. The second is developing skills like reporting environmental concerns, providing testimony before the Missouri Legislature and writing public comments. When we strengthen and coordinate these skills, we can build effective actions. 

Why act now? Missourians have seen a devastating loss of local control as it relates to protecting their health, land and livelihood from the impacts of CAFOs. Senate Bill 391 (SB 391), which passed in 2019, prohibits county commissions and health boards from enforcing any regulation on CAFO activities that are stricter than state regulations. This does not reflect the interests of Missourians. When SB 391 passed, 29 Missouri counties had public health or zoning ordinances in place to impose additional requirements and fees on animal feeding operations beyond what is required by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, demonstrating a desire to provide additional protections for our health, environment and local economies. SB 391 was challenged in 2019 and the legal battle over implementing SB 391 still continues. This summer, a proposed chicken CAFO in Cedar County threatened to sue the county if it enforces its health ordinance.

The most recent chapter in this story of unraveling local control is House Bill 574 (HB 574), which Governor Parson signed into law in June 2021. HB 574 limits the ability of local authorities to inspect livestock facilities to address health and safety concerns in their communities. Once again, our legislature has tied the hands of local authorities to take action in the interest of their residents. This “ag-gag” bill also limits who can testify on events that occur at livestock facilities. Now more than ever, Missourians need to build our community power.

This is a critical moment to organize in defense of local control and for a healthier, more sustainable food economy for Missouri — but it doesn’t end here. The tools we use for CAFO action can make us better advocates for environmental change. Tools like providing testimony, and commenting on permits and rules are how we show our regulators and legislators what is best for Missourians and our environment. We hope you’ll join us for a training this fall to build your skills as an environmental watchdog.

To learn about upcoming trainings or request a training near you, visit https://bit.ly/3ih2Qjl.