By: Rusty Rumley, Senior Staff Attorney
A temporary restraining order (“TRO”) was granted early this week, putting on hold a recent Missouri state law that was to go into effect on August 28, 2019 (S.B. 391). This law was intended to curtail the power of county commissions and county health boards in adopting regulations that are more stringent than those put in place by the state agencies that traditionally have authority in cases involving concentrated animal feeding operations.
It is important to note that both the law in question and the temporary restraining order only apply to Missouri; however, there is an interesting parallel between the new Missouri statute and language contained in certain right to farm statutes. All fifty states have a right to farm statute that generally works to provide an affirmative legal defense to farmers that are being sued by their neighbors for nuisances such as odor, dust, and noise. One common provision found in various state right to farm statutes is restrictive language on local governments enacting laws that affect agriculture. This prohibition was often inserted to limit the ability of local governments to act on the neighbors’ behalf in cases where they may be unable to successfully bring a nuisance lawsuit due to the right to farm statute. The wording of these types of provisions can vary drastically. Some statutes allow for exceptions based on health and welfare standards while others are more sweeping in their approach of limiting local government involvement in regulating agriculture. With several states strengthening their right to farm statutes in the previous couple of years the power of local governments may play an increasingly important role in the right to farm issue.
The Missouri TRO keeps the law from going into effect for another 10 days. The next hearing has been scheduled for Sept. 16.