I debuted my new environmentally themed presentation, Life is a River – A Bend Beyond, to a sizable and engaged audience at the Library Center a month ago. I have received many comments of encouragement since. Things like:
“Thanks for sharing your story and passion for our waterways. Your speech motivates me to join the fight.”
“I want to start focusing more on water and ecology to help spread awareness on these crucial issues.”
“There is something irresistible about speakers who believe in something and cannot be silent.”
I’m grateful for all, but none was more poignant than a note from a participant who preferred to remain anonymous, but was OK with me referring to the story she shared with me that night.
She reported that her sister’s family had a “gorgeous 63 acre piece of land with cabin, creek, pond, wildlife and 50 acres of trees,” in an adjoining state which she loved to visit. Business interests acquired a large tract of land surrounding their paradise and set out to establish a pig CAFO, or corporate farm, over the fierce objections of neighbors, who did not want the stench, threat to water supply, and loss of property values that accompany such huge operations. After lawsuits and physical threats, her sister’s family finally gave up and moved to another state. All of her family still mourns the loss. She closed in her note with a promise to join in the fight to protect Ozarkian waters.
Fast forward to the last week in session of the Missouri Legislature and a little known action to prohibit counties from enacting regulations for corporate farms that are more stringent that state regulations. In that the Missouri Legislature has steadily diminished their laws over the past five years to encourage expansion of factory farms, this loss of local control removes a last line of defense against CAFOs in the Ozarks.
Counties in the Ozarks negatively impacted by this bill include Greene, Stone, Dade, and Cedar, who had previously passed zoning or county health ordinances to prohibit or limit the size of CAFOs in their county. Those protections are gone as the state legislature and current administration seek to compete for such business with states who are becoming more vigilant in oversight. (An editorial signed by nine retired water quality and environmental leaders, will soon appear in the Springfield News-Leader, for those of you interested in reading more.)
The simple reason CAFOs can’t work in the Ozarks is our unique karst topography of springs, creeks, streams, lakes and water tables. Concentrated animal waste can be particularly damaging to water quality due to rain, runoff, and seepage through shallow soils. Our progress in cleaning up waters of the Ozarks over the past several decades, and recognizing our unique water resources as a major economic development factor, is once again at grave risk.
And equally as threatening is that once permitted, a CAFO is virtually impossible to get rid of.
Just ask out neighbors to the south along America’s first national river, the Buffalo. A 6,500 pig CAFO was granted a five year permit under “unusual” special circumstances in 2012 by the Arkansas Department of Natural Resources along side a major tributary of the Buffalo, just six miles from its confluence with the river. It was denied renewal by the same permitting agency five years later because of pollution of the river downstream. The dispute languishes in the Arkansas lower court system, while the pig farm continues to degrade the Buffalo.
We can’t let what happened in the story shared at the beginning of this post, or on the Buffalo river, to happen in our Ozarks. Clean water is too precious to our heritage, to our economy, and to our way of life to not aggressively fight the incursion of large corporate farms into our fragile topography and bountiful waters. We cannot cede local control of our future community health and safety to the state, its lobbyists, and their money. We must object and stand up for our rights.
I’m glad for River Rant, Pig Farm, and Life is a River – A Bend Beyond. I’ve raised my voice and will continue to do so. I hope you will as well.
The Buffalo River CAFO will be shut down, and the temporary moratorium on CAFOs in the Buffalo River watershed will be made permanent! The Buffalo River has been saved – again! More later, but a true victory for the good folks who have been fighting this battle for six years!
Coming next, June 30, 2019 – A RETROSPECTIVE
I’m looking for the right audience.
Are you connected to organizations that care about water quality and other environmental issues? I’d like to share my passion for environmental advocacy with like-minded audiences and organizations that are looking to rally, energize and inspire their members and volunteers. Please share my blog with your contacts, or contact me to let me know who I need to be reaching out to. Thanks!