Powell Gardens fears being downwind of cattle feedlot

Powell Gardens will open for the season on Saturday.
Powell Gardens will open for the season on Saturday. rsugg@kcstar.com

The prospect of a feedlot with thousands of cattle has Powell Gardens concerned about "a potential threat to the beauty and peace" of the botanical attraction three miles away.

The Valley Oaks Steak Co. is applying to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to expand an existing operation on U.S. 50 in Johnson County, Mo., to feed and process up to 6,999 head of cattle producing an estimated 13,900 tons of manure a year.

Under Missouri rules, only feedlots with 7,000 head or more of cattle are required to submit an odor plan.

Powell Gardens CEO Tabitha Schmidt issued a plea on social media for people to ask the state to hold a public hearing on the feedlot application.

Greg Caldwell, an environmental scientist in the Water Protection program, said Monday a public hearing is not required but one will be scheduled in this case. The details have not been finalized.

"The decision to hold a public hearing is determined on a case-by-case basis and based on if there is significant technical merit or concern," Caldwell said by email.

Schmidt said Powell Gardens could suffer because of the feedlot operation.

"As a clean air facility, promoting conservation and botanical excellence, we at Powell Gardens are concerned for the future of our gardens and the well-being of citizens that could be affected by this operation," Schmidt wrote.

Family-owned Valley Oaks is building what it calls a "state of the art" feedlot in which cattle would be housed under the roofs of metal barns with open sides. The collected manure would be dried in a separate barn and then applied to fields.

Asked about the smell at a recent Farm Bureau event, Valley Oaks plant manager Jake Huddleston said odor is "a necessary evil" but "we're trying to take care of it as best we can to keep it to a minimum," according to the Warrrensburg Daily Star-Journal.

Construction at the 400-acre site is in the final stages as Valley Oaks seeks a Class 1B concentrated animal feeding operation permit. If the state approves, the company could begin processing 80 to 100 head of cattle a day in April.

"Valley Oaks Steak Company was founded in 2016 with the intent of bringing locally grown beef to the Kansas City area," according to the company's website.

Powell Gardens reopens with daily admission on Saturday.

Public comments may be submitted to Gregory Caldwell at the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, greg.caldwell@dnr.mo.gov