The Missouri Supreme Court ruled this week that a state law preventing counties from imposing regulations on concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOS) does not violate the state’s Constitution. The unanimous decision upholds a former ruling by a Cole County Circuit Court ruling.
In May 2016, Cedar County Commission adopted a public health ordinance regulating CAFOs. In 2019, the Missouri Senate passed a Senate Bill 391 prohibiting counties from imposing rules on CAFOs that are “inconsistent with or more stringent than” state law or regulation.
In August 2019, just two weeks before the bill went into effect, Cooper County Public Health Center enacted a regulation that imposed air and water quality standards on CAFOs.
In May 2021, the Missouri House passed House Bill 271, a bill similar to the senate bill.
Cedar County Commission and Cooper County Public Health Center, Friends of Responsible Agriculture and three Missouri farmers filed a lawsuit against Gov. Mike Parson, the Missouri Air Conservation Commission and Missouri Clean Water Commission to declare the legislation unconstitutional, arguing that it conflicted with the state’s Right-to-Farm Amendment that gives authority to counties to regulate agriculture. It also sought a permanent injunction prohibiting the implementation and enforcement of the state law. Missouri Farm Bureau, the Missouri Pork Association and the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association had also been named as defendants but were eventually dismissed from the case.
This week, Missouri Supreme Court upheld the circuit court decision in favor of the state, ruling that the legislation does not violate the Right-to-Farm Amendment by conflicting with the counties’ article VI powers because those powers are only as broad or as narrow as the state legislature wants them to be.
In a joint statement, Missouri Farm Bureau, Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, Missouri Pork Association, Missouri Soybean Association and Missouri Corn Growers Association expressed gratitude for the ruling.
“This ruling ends decades of legal uncertainty that have stifled Missouri’s farm and ranch families from growing their operations. They now have much-needed certainty to produce food for our communities and the world, governed by sound science, as provided for in state law,” the groups stated, adding that the ruling makes it clear that local health ordinances must follow state laws and regulations.
“We are thankful for Governor Parson’s support for SB 391 and HB 271, Senator Schmitt for his work on this issue as attorney general, and legislators like Senator Bernskoetter and Representative Haffner for their strong support for agriculture throughout this process.”