JEFFERSON CITY - The campaign to control pollution and waste resulting from corporate hog farms took a step forward in the House on Wednesday (March 27).
The bill, which won preliminary approval in a voice vote, would set general guidelines as to how sprawling hog farms should be regulated by the Natural Resources Department.
Corporate livestock farms have been the source of nine sewage spills into Missouri's rivers and streams in the past six months.
A major issue addressed in the bill is the creation of an indemnity fund.
The fund would establish monies to rehabilitate sewage lagoons after closure of a farm due to bankruptcy or abandonment. Class 1A corporate farms would be required to pay 10 cents into the fund for each animal owned.
"Today we made a gigantic stride forward in dealing with the issue of closure," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Phil Tate, D-Gallatin. "Indemnity is a giant step for closure, but we can't close with the money it creates. We need to look at a stronger funding mechanism."
Rep. Dale Whiteside, R-Chillicothe, who owns a small family hog farm, said he didn't think the bill would do much to change decreasing profit margins for independent farmers. "We didn't do anything to change the direction of the hog industry," he said.
House members rejected an amendment proposed by Rep. Ken Jacob, D-Columbia, that would have allowed for public hearings in communities selected as sites for corporate farms.
"I can't imagine going back to a constituent and explaining why I voted against an amendment that gives them more say on having a hog farm in his back yard," Jacob said during debate.
Some representatives agreed with the necessity of public debate, however, said they could not support the amendment because it was poorly drafted.
The bill requires a final vote before being sent to the Senate, but cannot be changed.
Rep. Tom Marshall, D-Marshall, who helped write the bill, said he thought the final bill failed to address a crucial question: the stench.
"The odor question is very important to the entire CAFO (confined animal feeding operation) question because CAFOs are a new and different kind of farming," he said.
Marshall supported odor regulations in the 1994 legislative debate over this issue.
"The questions are still the same as they were three years ago," he said. "Odor is still a question."
Rep. Charles Shields, R-St. Joseph, addressed the odor issue as well. He submitted a lighthearted amendment during the heat of debate which would subject hogs to the same emission tests currently required of cars.
"Hogs that fail the swine emission test shall be outfitted with a carbon core swine gas emission filter to be worn on the posterior of the hog," the amendment read.