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Judge puts hold on Callaway County CAFO decision

A judge has put a hold on an important decision regarding construction of a mid-Missouri hog farm.

Cole County Judge Patricia Joyce ordered the Department of Natural Resources and the Clean Water Commission “to refrain from all actions” related to Friends of Responsible Agriculture’s appeal of the 10,320-head confined animal feeding operation proposed for Callaway County.

Judge Joyce’s order comes just a few days after FoRAG’s attorney, Steve Jeffrey, filed a lawsuit against DNR, the Clean Water Commission and Callaway Farrowing, the company pushing for the CAFO, for alleged misconduct.

According to the suit, several members of the Commission attended CAFO tours in late March and early April, alongside Robert Brundage, the lawyer representing Callaway Farrowing in the permit appeal. Members of FoRAG were never notified of the “tours”, the lawsuit says, and opponents of the CAFO were unable to provide any rebuttal evidence to the farm operators who, they believe, support the construction of Callaway Farrowing’s site.

State law requires the Clean Water Commission to only make its decision based on the evidence presented at a February session of the Administrative Hearing Commission. The Commission scheduled a vote on the appeal at its June 10 meeting.

“If that, potentially, gave them access to more information, that makes the playing field unlevel and unfair to all, and that’s what brought this about,” Jeff Jones, president of FoRAG, told ABC 17 News.

Neither Brundage nor a representative with DNR responded to requests to comment Sunday evening.

In November, DNR granted Callaway Farrowing, a group owned by Iowa company Eichelberger Farms, an operating permit to build on twenty acres of land on County Road 227. Workers there would handle sows “farrowing”, or birthing, piglets, then sending the piglets to an off-site facility for slaughter. Farmers in the area would keep the manure for fertilizer, which would be injected into the ground to avoid manure runoff into nearby streams. Sherry Stoner, a geologist with DNR, found the soil and bedrock in the area would slow any water flow.

“Therefore, the potential to impact groundwater is limited,” the report said.

Opponents of the CAFO have contended heavy rains would still cause pollution into nearby waterways, such as the Richland and Stinson creeks.

Judge Joyce required DNR, represented by the state’s Attorney General’s Office, and Callaway Farrowing to respond to the lawsuit by July 6.

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