Missouri Supreme Court Affirms State Law Curbing Counties’ CAFO Regulations

Missouri’s top court has unanimously affirmed two state laws prohibiting county commissions and health boards from enacting regulations on controlled animal feeding operations more stringent than the state allows.  The 7-0 decision handed down Tuesday afternoon by the state Supreme Court rejected challenges from the Cedar County Commission, Cooper County Public Health Center, and other critics.  A lower court had ruled that counties’ authority to regulate agriculture was only granted by state law and not codified by the 2014 Right To Farm Amendment passed by voters.  The seven justices also agreed with the lower court that the statutes amended by Senate Bill 391 in 2019 and House Bill 271 in 2021 rendered any conflicting county ordinances in place obsolete.  Cedar County Commissioners had enacted their CAFO ordinance in May 2016, prompting the passage of SB 391.  Cooper County’s Public Health Board passed stronger air and water quality standards for CAFOs weeks before that bill took effect in August 2019.

In a statement after the ruling, Missouri Farm Bureau, joined by several state commodity groups, said they were grateful for today’s unanimous ruling, adding: “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.”  Farm Bureau along with Missouri Cattlemen’s Association and Missouri Pork Association had been named respondents in the original lawsuit but were removed from the case.