The Department of Natural Resources might have put Missouri agriculture in a bad spot .because its lawyers might have fumbled a lawsuit challenging location of a big pig farm near a historic community.

A judge in Jefferson City says no concentrated animal feeding operation can be licensed by the natural resources department within 15 miles of the Saline County village of Arrow Rock and its historic sites. The ruling also appears to stop a big chicken farm near Prairie State Park and Roaring River State Park in southwest Missouri..

Senate Agriculture chairman Dan Clemens was stunned by a ruling that he thinks could become statewide through later lawsuits. He and DNR Chief Doyle Childers accuse judge Patricia Joyce of writing law, not following it. Her ruling, however, indicates just the opposite.

Opponents of the Arrow Rock pig farm and the Barry County chicken farm sued DNR, claiming the farm would harm the historic nature and the tourism that is city’s economic base. With the suit, they filed 149 statements that they asked DNR to agree to. Joyce’s ruling notes DNR received the 149 statements on May 19 and had 30 days to respond. But DNR missed the June 18 deadline.

The record showed DNR’s lawyers asked, two days later, for permission to file a belated response, citing a state appeals court ruling from 1992. But Joyce says DNR’s lawyers then failed to justify the request. More than a month after the original deadline, and with no brief from DNR, Joyce ruled that court rules and DNR’s lack of response required her to consider the 149 assertions by the plaintiffs as being true and binding upon DNR in the issuance of a judgment against DNR and the two CAFOs.

She says case law requires her to issue the ruling she has issued, leaving DNR chief Doyle Childers wondering if his lawyers just screwed up. "According to what I hear, they just miscalculated the date, which obviously is disappointing if that is what took place," he says.

Childers is sure there will be an appeal after he figures how how his agency got itself into this pickle and how it might argue its way out of it.

Download Bob Priddy’s story (:62 mp3)