'Toilet bowl of Missouri'? Proposed feedlot expansion near Powell Gardens spurs debate

Hundreds participated in a contentious public hearing concerning a proposed Angus beef feedlot expansion near Powell Gardens.

The hearing, held Tuesday by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources at the Warrensburg Community Center, drew an over-capacity crowd, according to attendees. The Valley Oaks Steak Co. is applying for a permit to expand an existing operation on U.S. 50 in Lone Jack.

The feedlot would produce close to 40 tons of manure per day.

At least 400 people showed up at the public hearing, but the community center had a capacity of just 200, according to attendees. Many people were turned away at the doors.

Among opponents' concerns were the potential odor from the operation and the potential environmental costs.

Rachel Foley, a resident of the area, raised concerns about the disposal of manure and the effect on two centennial farms in the area.

Powell Gardens CEO Tabitha Schmidt had said in February that the nature center 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.

Proponents of the feedlot pointed out the opportunity for jobs in the agriculture field.

"We must stand firm for farms in Missouri," a cattleman said, according to 41 Action News. Some students showed their support for expansion, and another cattleman said he felt the company would meet requirements for the expansion.

Valley Oaks Steak Co. is applying for a concentrated animal feeding operation permit.

Improving technology that allows for such operations has led to an overall reduction in the environmental impact of livestock and poultry production, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

But environmental risks remain at individual operations.

"Each one of these operations will generate a large amount of animal manure that must be managed properly," the Department of Natural Resources' website states. "When this is accomplished, farmers will have a safe, reliable and sustainable fertilizer source for their farming operation. When it is not, the farm has the potential to negatively impact the state’s water resources."