A Cole County Judge ruled Tuesday to allow a lawsuit against a proposed hog birthing operation to continue.
Judge Daniel Green dismissed motions from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Clean Water Commission and the company Callaway Farrowing to throw out the suit, filed by the group of landowners Friends of Responsible Agriculture in June. The suit alleges Clean Water commissioners went on two tours of confined animal feeding operations in March and April, operating similarly to the one Callaway Farrowing wants to build. Commissioners were set to vote on Callaway Farrowing’s operating permit later that month.
“It will allow for us to find out if the playing field was level to everybody involved, that it was fair to everybody,” Jeff Jones, head of FoRAG told ABC 17 News.
Joshua Devine, a lawyer for Callaway Farrowing, declined comment due to the “active litigation.”
FoRAG appealed DNR’s decision to allow Callaway Farrowing to build their 10,320-head hog birthing operation on County Road 227. The Clean Water Commission, the body deciding the result of the appeal, could only use evidence brought up at a February session of the Administrative Hearing Commission. Steven Jeffrey, attorney for FoRAG, claimed the CWC and DNR broke the rules when they went on the CAFO tours, alongside legal counsel of Callaway Farrowing.
The lawsuit will allow landowners to see who arranged the tours, and why members of FoRAG were not included on them, Jones said.
“Anything that could have been a fact-finding situation for them to change their mind, one way or another, for the operating permit or against it, would not have been fair to everybody involved,” Jones said.
For the last year, Jones and others have fought the construction of the CAFO by Iowa-based Eichelberger Farms. The company has several agreements with other landowners nearby to give manure left by the hogs as fertilizer. Jones and others believe the CAFO will impact environmental quality in the area.
“Not just the air, but the water, and maybe even the soil, depending on what’s being put into it,” Jones said. “There’s so many unknowns on this large a scale, that we have researched the best we can, but it shows a negative impact instead of a positive impact.”