Neighbors are right to raise a stink about the feedlot near Missouri’s Powell Gardens

Valley Oaks Steak Co. in the tiny town of Lone Jack, Missouri wants to add thousands more cattle to its feedlot in a densely populated area three miles upwind of Powell Gardens. That’s especially unfortunate for visitors to the botanical gardens and for the scores of neighbors who have long since lost patience with the smell and the bugs from a farm that’s essentially a factory.

The 141 property owners who are suing object to the company’s application for a permit to allow its feedlot to expand from 999 cattle to 6,999. That would make it the largest in Missouri, and one of only two in the country with a slaughterhouse and an animal-feeding operation at the same site.

They and other Missourians ought to be better protected by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, which doesn’t have air quality regulations that apply to all concentrated animal feeding operations.

Two years ago, the state rejected calls to expand the odor rule for confined animal feeding operations. As a result, it still only applies to the largest such operations — at least 17,500 hogs, 7,000 cows or 700,000 chickens.

But do we really think kids, older people and other humans who happen to live near Valley Oaks Steak won’t develop asthma or other respiratory and health problems from the pollution of a mere 6,999 cows?

Two years ago, Missouri ignored the testimony of Patrick Smith, a professor in the University of Missouri-Columbia’s Department of Pathology and Anatomic Studies, when he told the Missouri Air Conservation Commission that concentrated animal feeding operations emit pollutants including hydrogen sulfide, ammonia and particulate matter that can “present a public health concern for persons who reside, work and engage in other activities within a one-mile radius.”

This unregulated stench continues to divide Lone Jack, where three cows have been shot to death and a county commissioner’s car windshield broken in.

Violence and vandalism won’t solve anything. But the frustration they highlight is understandable, because threats to the health of Missourians demand far more serious oversight.