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State Temporarily Halts Massive Expansion Of Cattle Feedlot Near Powell Gardens

Andrea Tudhope
KCUR 89.3
Hundreds filled a meeting room, hallway and gymnasium in April for a public hearing on the proposed expansion. The red shirts read 'Farms Not Factories.'

Updated October 24, 2018 — A state commission on Tuesday temporarily halted the massive expansion of a cattle slaughterhouse and feedlot near Kansas City's Powell Gardens by recommending revoking its permit.

The Missouri Administrative Hearing Commission (AHC) weighed in after a long battle between the botanical gardens and the Valley Oaks Steak Company.

The company wants to expand from 600 head of cattle to nearly 6,999,  just one cow shy of needing to submit an air-quality monitoring plan to the state of Missouri.

Powell Gardens, and residents and farmers of Lone Jack, Missouri, contend that air and water quality would suffer from the expansion. 

The AHC found that the permit granted to Valley Oaks was unlawful, in part, because the company didn't properly notify neighbors of the plans ahead of time.

Karen Lux is the sixth generation of a small family farm in Lone Jack. She lives one mile from the Valley Oaks facility.

"There's so many established residences, and established small farms, trying to do the right thing out there," Lux told KCUR. "To plop a factory farm right in the middle of it is the wrong thing to do, and it affects all our health. And it's all for money."

Her big concern is that the Missouri Department of Natural Resources doesn't have tighter regulations on concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs.

Powell Gardens CEO Tabitha Schmidt said in a statement the botanical gardens would follow up on the issue.

"We continue to support the Johnson County Community Health Services' work on a health ordinance or regulations to create more stringent guidelines for the protection of the health, environment and welfare of Powell Gardens and the surrounding community," she said in the statement.

Lux said if she's learned anything from this lengthy process, it's that "it matters who you vote for."

The AHC's recommendation is a temporary win for Powell Gardens and Lone Jack residents. The final decision falls to the Missouri Clean Water Commission, which has until December to decide. 

In a statement, Valley Oaks Steak Company took issue with the AHC's recommendation, arguing it "is contrary to the law and the evidence, and improperly focuses on minor, technical issues."

It went on to say the company is "confident" the Missouri Clean Water Commission "will agree with the experts at the Department of Natural Resources that we met or exceeded all of the permitting requirements."

According to a release from Powell Gardens, if the AHC's recommendation is overturned, the Valley Oaks expansion will make it "the largest beef CAFO in the state."

Andrea Tudhope is a reporter at KCUR 89.3. Email her at andreat@kcur.org, and follow her on Twitter @_tudhope

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