Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill has “serious concerns” about the expansion of a feedlot and beef processing facility in west central Missouri. On Tuesday she wrote to the Missouri Clean Water Commission urging it to deny a request by Valley Oaks Steak Company for a permit to expand its feedlot from 999 head to 6,999 head.
The proposed expansion of Valley Oaks has stirred controversy since the company announced plans to expand earlier this year. Located in Lone Jack, MO, just 30 miles southeast of Kansas City, Valley Oaks is a family-owned business that feeds cattle and operates a slaughter and processing facility on-site. The Ward family is seeking to expand with state-of-the art feeding and processing facilities they say will control odor and runoff from the operation.
Local residents, however, object to the proposal and have vigorously campaigned against any expansion. Opponents claim expanding the feeding capacity to 6,999 head would produce 13,900 tons of manure each year, threatening local water and producing unwanted odors. One of Valley Oaks neighbors is Powell Gardens, a 970-acre botanical gardens in Kingsville, MO. Powell Gardens includes a nature trail, wildflower meadows and a woodland chapel used for weddings.
In June the Missouri Department of Natural Resources granted Valley Oaks request for expansion. But Powell Gardens and many homeowners in the area objected, and an appeal was filed. Last week the Missouri Administrative Hearing Commission blocked the expansion, citing a lack of proper waste storage and inaccurate data on the applications. The final decision is now up to the Missouri Clean Water Commission, and they have until Dec. 7 to issue their ruling.
In a statement released Wednesday, Valley Oaks representatives said they believe the recommendation is contrary to the law and evidence and improperly focuses on minor technical issues.
“Under the law, the Missouri Clean Water Commission makes the final decision and we are confident that it will agree with the experts at the Department of Natural Resources that we met or exceeded all of the permitting requirements,” Valley Oaks said.
“In an increasingly suburban environment, common sense requires efforts be made to limit the scale and impact of such a facility,” McCaskill wrote in her letter to members of the Missouri Clean Water Commission. Further she stated, “My concerns are based on the overwhelming opposition I have heard from constituents in the local community.”
McCaskill, a two-term Democratic senator, is locked in a tight race for re-election against Republican Josh Hawley, who is currently Missouri’s Attorney General.
Controversy over the planned expansion has, at times, reached a boiling point. Valley Oaks owners said they have received threats to their safety, and Lone Jack Police confirmed someone shot and killed three steers and a pregnant heifer belonging to Valley Oaks in early March.