CAFOs in Missouri: We Need to Be Careful.

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CAFOs in Missouri: We Need to Be Careful.

(May 21, 2021) Updated Information: Since this piece was first published on March 18, the Missouri Clean Water Commission ruled this week in favor of large for-profit farming corporations and against Missourians whose lives are impacted by contaminated groundwater water due to runoff and seepage. According to reporting from Missouri independent, those voting in favor of changing regulations to accommodate CAFOs are:

  • Ashley McCarty, executive director of Missouri Farmers Care
  • Stan Coday, a board member of the Missouri Farm Bureau
  • Allen Rowland, a farmer from Dexter and former member of the Missouri Corn Board
  • Patricia Thomas, treasurer of the Missouri Republican Party
  • Neal Bredehoeft, a farmer in Lafayette and Saline counties and former president of the Missouri Soybean Association board


It appears that some of our fellow Missourians are about to experience first hand a collision between local economic growth, jobs, and devastating impact on the environment, courtesy of CAFOs.

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) have been around in Missouri for the past 20 years. These operations aren’t family farms–they are big operations with thousands of animals confined to cages or small areas. While some CAFOs are owned by Missouri companies, many are owned by out-of-state or even international corporations. 

According to the Department of Natural Resources website, 36 CAFOs have been approved to operate in Missouri since January 31, 2018. Four applications are currently in process. 

A recent article revealed that a 10,000 hog operation run by a Brazilian company is trying to inch closer to local homes and a beautiful park in Livingston County. It’s not just any Brazilian company. It’s JBS, the largest meat packer in the world with over 150 plants across the globe. This is the same company that saw hundreds of its employees–mostly migrants and non-English speakers–die from COVID, with thousands more infected. 

This is also the same company that’s being investigated by the US Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission investigations for alleged bribery. 

Livingston County

Livingston County is located in northwestern Missouri and is home to about 15,000 residents. Poosey Conservation Area has nearly 6000 acres of unique fern-draped rock bluffs, heavily-timbered hills of oak and hickory, rolling grass expanses, and a variety of wildlife. It’s also the home of 192-acre Indian Creek Community Lake. 

As part of its application to expand its operations and encroach on area homes, they’ve found shallow groundwater. Translation: Hog waste could easily seep into residents’ drinking water. The US Center for Disease Control published research about the effects of water contamination from CAFOs. 

Just Who Is the DNR Looking Out For? 

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources is the regulatory body that ensures our air is fit to breathe and our water is safe to drink. In other words, the DNR is supposed to have Missourians’ backs. 

However, according to a commentary in the Missouri Independent, the DNR is to create an emergency rule change process which would essentially allow CAFO operations like the one in Livingston County to skirt around the problem. In other words, the DNR appears to be siding with big business and is turning its back on Missouri residents. 

In the meantime, the DNR continues to take public comments from area residents in opposition of the operation. But by their actions, it almost appears as though those efforts are futile. 

Curiously, the DNR’s page states that the information provided is not a comprehensive list of all pending CAFO permit applications. Moreover, the information provided to the public may not be the complete file for the CAFO application. To find out exactly how many CAFO permit applications there are, Missourians must file a sunshine request. The question becomes, “Why?” 

Livingston County is Every Missouri County

Livingston County has a whole lot in common with a vast majority of counties in Missouri. JBS views it as an easy place to come and set up its operations. It could decide to do the same thing anywhere in the Show-Me State. 




OneMissouri is committed to research, education, advocacy, and policy development on behalf of all Missourians. 


Top Graphic Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur on Unsplash

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