Having read the press release from Farm Bureau concerning our lawsuit against the state over SB 391, I am compelled to remind everyone how we came to the point of enacting a health ordinance on contained animal feeding operations (CAFO’s) and why we have moved forward with the suit.
In 2015, my first year in office, the county commission began to hear concerns from rural citizens about the rapid expansion of poultry operations and the location of some of these facilities. These citizens were farmers and ranchers not animal rights or environmental activists. Throughout that summer, the increase of complaints led us to look at the need for limited and reasonable control that would work for both sides of the issue. We presented to the public through public hearings and our regular commission meetings an ordinance that provided reasonable setbacks from occupied dwellings, populated areas, streams and existing CAFO’s. Since that time we have issued permits when the proper locations were established and the public had been given the opportunity to object. To this day no permit request has been denied.
Now comes Senate Bill 391 that takes away your right to determine what works best in your county and forever removes your right to that privilege. Our first objection to our legislators was the loss of that right. When that argument fell on deaf ears, we pleaded for clarity and the right to maintain existing ordinances. That too was ignored which brings us to today and our lawsuit. We have been intentionally denied clarity which could have easily been written into the bill and forced to either rollover to the will of corporate agriculture lobbyist or seek a judicial ruling. Does the legislature have the constitutional right to deny county sovereignty or the constitutional right to negate legally established county ordinances? That is why we pursued a restraining order on the enacting of this law and a ruling on those questions.
Last but not least, if you find our ordinance is hurting your ability to keep up with the changes in farm needs or growth, your commissioners are right here where you are and are easily accessible as we were when this started. We do not have to go through years of testifying before committees, legislative battles or hope changes will be heard on the house and senate floors and maybe make it to a vote to get bad laws changed. We can change ours with a simple two to one vote by the county commission. This is your county and you should be the voice of our needs.
God bless our farmers.
Cedar County Presiding Commissioner