Also see Infobox on livestock plant regulation bills that have been filed.
JEFFERSON CITY - Concern about the numerous recent waste spills in northern Missouri is the focus of discussion and disagreement among Missouri legislators, environmental activists, farmers and farming organizations.
At issue is just how far the state should go in clamping down on pollution by livestock operations.
Segments of the agriculture community argue for limited regulation, targeting only the largest operations. Environmentalist groups argue for a broader law.
In the legislature, Rep. Phil Tate, D-Gallatin, is leading the effort for the narrowly targeted bill.
"We have a problem in northern Missouri, and I want to fix it," Tate said, expressing his concern about the nine recent waste spills from large livestock facilities in Missouri. He describes his proposal as a "common sense, affordable, effective approach, that does not regulate outside of hog farming specifically."
However, Roger Allison, director of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, argues that Tate's proposal does not go far enough in regulating farmers. Instead of establishing regulations for farms with 7,000 or more animals, as is specified by Tate's proposal, Allison says regulations should be imposed on farmers with 600 or more animals.
"When it comes to regulations, we definitely want to see these [small] operations regulated," Allison said. The Crisis Center, composed of 14 different groups from across Missouri, supports stricter regulations such as the ones in a bill that is being proposed by Rep. Tom Marshall, D-Marshall.
But Tate says these stricter regulations would harm family farmers.
"If they had their way, they would put family farmers out of business," said Tate. The stricter proposals, he said, include "overly burdensome, unnecessary environmental regulations that would be imposed where they are not needed."
Estil Fretwell, lobbyist for the Missouri Farm Bureau, said that the bureau supports the more narrow provisions of Tate's proposal.
"It's important to target the (larger) facilities," he said, "Because they have caused the most problems."
The House Agriculture Committee is considering six different proposals regarding regulation of farms.
Tate said that he would like to see the committee take action on these proposals and have a substitute ready for the House floor well before the end of February.