Heated debate over meat company's expansion plans

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Hundreds of people packed into the Warrensburg Community Center on Tuesday for a heated public hearing dealing with a metro meat company’s controversial expansion plan.

Valley Oaks Steak Company, located in Johnson County, Missouri, plans to expand its feedlot and processing plant and increase cattle at the site by seven times.

On Tuesday, both supporters and opponents of the plan spoke at the public hearing to officials with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

“So many people in our community are upset over one business person being able to come in and disrupt our lives,” explained resident Karen Lux, who told 41 Action News her parents have a farm near the expansion site. “The negative effects on it definitely outweigh anything that could bring any sort of positive to our area.”

Many opponents of the plan wore matching red t-shirts to the hearing while some brought signs with messages against the expansion.

Throughout the course of the 90-minute public comment period, neighbors voiced environmental and property value concerns.

Others spoke about how the odor from the processing plant could be unpleasant.

Staff at Powell Gardens, located just 10 minutes from Valley Oaks Steak Company, have also brought up concerns that runoff from the expansion site could contaminate local groundwater.

“Never before have I seen a situation that warrants a permit denial more than this one,” said an attorney at the public hearing representing Powell Gardens. “You have a priceless community treasure within three miles that will be devastated with the issue inside this permit.”

Supporters of Valley Oaks, many of whom were fellow cattle farmers, were spotted wearing “Yes…Family Farms” stickers.

The company has said the expansion could bring dozens of jobs to the area and cut down on the transport of cattle.

“This is not only a great opportunity for Johnson County. It’s an opportunity for Missouri agriculture and United States agriculture,” explained a University of Central Missouri agricultural student at the public hearing.

The Missouri Cattlemen’s Association also held a press conference before the public hearing to voice support for the plan.

Region 5 Vice President Bruce Mershon said residents should embrace the economic impact the expansion would bring.

“It’s local jobs. It’s local farmers getting to sell their hay and their grain to them,” he explained. “This is an opportunity for those cattle to stay in Missouri, provide jobs and opportunities.”

Crowds of people overflowed from the main hearing room at the community center.

Many attendees stood outside in a hallway while a speaker was also set up in a gym on the same floor.

Moving forward, Karen Lux said she expected opponents to keep fighting against the expansion plan.

“It will continue on. We won’t stop,” she explained. “We need to make sure that they understand what this actually is going into our backyard.”

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources will decide if a permit will be granted for the Valley Oaks expansion.

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