JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri senators gave initial approval early Tuesday to legislation that would block local officials from regulating industrial farms more strictly than the state does.
Lawmakers debated for several hours overnight on the environmental impact of large farms, local control over them and actions taken by some county officials that critics said have threatened to regulate industrial farms out of existence.
"It's kind of boiling down to people who have nothing to do with it wanting to impose additional restrictions on people who live in rural areas like mine who have very few options for raising their family," said Republican Sen. Cindy O'Laughlin, who lives in the rural northeastern Missouri city of Shelbina.
The bill deals with industrial farms known as concentrated animal feeding operations. Those farms allow for more efficient production of beef, pork, poultry, dairy and eggs. But they've also raised concerns about animal welfare, as well as air and water pollution.
At least 20 counties have imposed additional regulations and fees on animal feeding operations through health ordinances, according to data from University of Missouri Extension . Another nine counties and townships enacted zoning regulations.
Bipartisan opponents of the Senate bill raised concerns ranging from local control to the impact industrial farms have on air and water quality in the community. Republican Sen. Mike Cierpiot, from the Kansas City suburb of Lee's Summit, said he's "not anti-CAFO."
"I'm just bothered by what we're trying to do here by pre-empting these counties," Cierpiot said, adding that the legislation gets in the way of "local folks being able to know what's best for them."
Debate ended after senators agreed to add a provision to the bill that sets limits on the use of manure from industrial farms near streams and other bodies of water.
The measure needs another Senate vote to move to the House for consideration. Lawmakers face a May 17 deadline to pass legislation.