Jury sides with farmer plaintiffs in MO CAFO case

A jury has sided with 102 Missouri farmer plaintiffs against the Cooper County Health Board in its effort to regulate Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations.

Plaintiff attorney Brent Haden tells Brownfield the jury found the Cooper County Health Board violated Missouri Sunshine laws when setting regulation V and its replacement regulation VI in 2018 and 2019.

“The verdict came back from the jury [that] there were violations, and they were done knowingly,” he said. “A knowingly finding does open the board to an award of a potential civil fine and, potentially, of the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees for having to pursue the case.”

Haden said the health board didn’t adequately communicate when decisions around CAFOs were being made and didn’t provide requested information related to its decisions.

Regulation VI sought to place more stringent regulation on livestock operations than state law which was made illegal by Missouri Senate Bill 391 and Missouri House Bill 271.

Cooper County farmer and plaintiff Nathan Alpers says he hopes to recoup some of the group’s attorney’s fees if there isn’t an appeal of Wednesday’s decision. Alpers tells Brownfield the decision is a huge weight off farmers’ shoulders.

“It’s something that we hope we never have to do again, but we don’t regret doing it,” Alpers said. “We put a lot of time and effort into it, as well as the other plaintiffs [they] were all very important in this too. The immediate reaction, I mean, us three team captains turned around and just gave each other a hug.”

The jury’s decision is unrelated to a case heading to the Missouri Supreme Court later this month involving Cooper County’s attempt to regulate CAFOs.

Brent Haden Interview
Nathan Alpers Interview

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