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Feedlot expansion near Powell Gardens halted temporarily

A state commission on Tuesday temporarily halted the expansion of a cattle feedlot near Johnson County Missouri’s Powell Gardens.

The future of the agribusiness is now in the hands of the Missouri Clean Water Commission after a decision by the state’s Administrative Hearing Commission culminating a 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.

In July, the AHC issued a temporary stay on Valley Oaks’ development so it could review the issue.

Powell Gardens is declaring the most recent decision a win.

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 Clean Water Commission will have until Dec. 22 to decide on the AHC’s recommendation.

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.”