Powell Gardens to fight the Valley Oaks CAFO in court

Last Friday, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources granted Valley Oaks Steak Company a permit that will allow the Lone Jack company to grow its 900-cow feedlot into a 7,000-cow CAFO, or concentrated animal feeding operation. The Valley Oaks cows won’t be a grazing-in-the-field type, as we reported in April. They’ll instead be crammed inside open-air barns, producing — according to one estimate — as much as 1,500 tons of urine, feces, and bedding material each day while they’re being fattened for slaughter. Valley Oaks would be the largest cattle CAFO in the entire state of Missouri. 

For this reason, the Valley Oaks proposal has been controversial from the start, with thousands of neighbors from the surrounding area strongly opposing the project. Foremost among those neighbors is Powell Gardens, Kansas City’s thousand-acre botanical gardens, located just three miles down the road. (The stench from CAFOs are known to carry as far as five or six miles.)  

“This is highly unusual to put this right in the middle of a growing area,” Tabitha Schmidt, president and CEO of Powell Gardens, told The Pitch in April. “You wouldn’t put this next to the Nelson [Atkins Museum of Art].”

In response to MDNR’s issuing of the permit last Friday, Powell Gardens today announced it has filed for an injunction and will be filing an administrative appeal on the matter of the Valley Oaks CAFO. 

In a release, the botanical gardens says that the appeal and injunction are “an effort to protect Kansas City’s botanical garden — which attracts more than 100,000 visitors a year — from the harmful and irreparable effects it will experience as a result of the expansion of this factory farm.”

The release continues: “The list of adverse environmental impacts that are of concern to Powell Gardens and its Lone Jack neighbors includes gaseous odors from bones, urine, blood and carcasses from the barn and slaughterhouse; wind-blown particulates from manure spread at Valley Oaks and surrounding land parcels; ground and surface water contamination; pests that endanger flora and fauna; decreasing land values; and wear and tear on the local infrastructure.”

“The stakes are high because there will be a range of losses that cannot be remedied or compensated by any amount of damages,” says Aimee Davenport, an environmental attorney representing Powell Gardens. 

Schmidt notes that she’d rather be celebrating Powell Gardens’ 30th anniversary than fighting for her institution’s long-term survival. But, she says, “As the stewards of this natural resource, we are in a major moment that calls us to preserve and protect it for future generations.” 

You can donate to Powell Gardens by going here. Our original story on the CAFO controversy is here

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