DNR Opens Door for Weaker Regulation of Missouri’s Largest CAFOs
On Friday, June 3, 2022, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR or “the Department”) issued a weak and outdated general permit to Smithfield’s South Meadows complex in Sullivan County, MO. The South Meadows facility is one of the largest concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in Missouri – confining over 50,000 thousand hogs – and has reported 17 incidents totaling over 64,000 gallons of hog waste. You can read the full, joint press release from MCE, the Socially Responsible Agriculture Project (SRAP), and Missouri Sierra Club here.
South Meadows is one of 11 Smithfield CAFOs that attempted to terminate their site-specific permits and apply for weaker general permits back in 2020. General permits are generic to an industry. In the case of CAFOs, they do not include specific conditions based on the number and type of animals and tend to assume similar discharges and pollutant types. Until recently, Missouri’s largest CAFOs – called Class IAs – been operating under site-specific or “individual” permits, which appropriately provide a greater level of detail based on the site conditions, proximity to waters, and other specific facility characteristics. EPA suggests that permit writers consider site-specific permits for exceptionally large facilities, facilities with historic compliance problems, and in areas of significant environmental concern.
In November of 2021, after MCE members and partners brought public attention to their scheme, Smithfield withdrew all but one of its general permit applications and chose to continue operating its facilities under site-specific permits. With no explanation, the South Meadows facility left its site-specific termination and general permit application request outstanding.
Almost two years later, DNR has caught environmental groups, public interest organizations, and concerned Missourians off-guard by approving an outdated 2018 general permit for the South Meadows facility in the middle of a months-long process to gather public input before reissuing Missouri’s general CAFO permits in 2023.
After years of regular engagement with DNR by public interest organizations, and other concerned citizens about the health, safety, environmental, and economic impacts of CAFOs on Missourians, we are disappointed that DNR granted a general permit for an operation this large, says Melissa Vatterott, Policy Director at Missouri Coalition for the Environment (MCE). It is hard to trust that DNR has any intention to issue another site-specific permit in Missouri if it is willing to issue the weaker, general permit to a facility that has a history of violations and poses significant concerns for Missouri’s people and their environment.
Not only has the Department authorized one of the state’s largest CAFOs and chronic polluters to switch permits just months before a new general permit goes into effect, but DNR has opened the door for all other Class IA CAFOs to follow suit: regardless of their size, violation history, or location.
MCE believes it is more important than ever to improve Missouri’s general permits for CAFOs to provide greater transparency and accountability. You can participate in these conversations by joining DNR’s CAFO General Permit Stakeholder Meeting on Thursday, June 16 at 10 AM online or in-person at the Lewis and Clark State Office Building 1101 Riverside Drive Jefferson City, MO. Meeting details are available here.
Official drafts of Missouri’s general permits for CAFOs will be posted on public notice later this summer and available for public comment. Stayed tuned and feel free to reach out to MCE for more information on how you can get involved.
- Want to receive informational updates and action opportunities about factory farming and CAFOs near you? Join MCE’s CAFO Action Network (CAN).
- Want to learn more about Smithfield’s track record of pollution in Missouri? Check out SRAP’s Rap Sheet on Industrial Hog Facilities in Missouri.