MOUND CITY – The Linn County Commission on Monday, Dec. 18, asked County Counselor Gary Thompson to draft a resolution meant to protect a Mound City meat processing company from what was described as onerous and expensive regulations being put into place by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regarding water discharged from the company’s shop.
However, neither the commissioners nor Amarillo, Texas-based Angela Ragland, who made the pitch for the resolution, bothered to ask Mound City Butcher Block owner Brandon Smith if his company needed protecting.
In her presentation to the commission, Ragland, asked commissioners to sign a resolution against the EPA regulations that will take effect in Jan. 2025. The rule would regulate the water discharged from butcher facilities.
Saying that she was a landowner in Linn County, Ragland explained that the implementation of the rule that would provide guidelines for meat and poultry products effluent guidelines would put places like the Butcher Block out of business because of the cost of adhering to the regulations.
However, in a telephone interview on Tuesday, Dec. 19, Butcher Block owner Brandon Smith said that his small business had installed a new filtration system about four years ago as a test case for EPA. He said that, according to the manufacturer of the filtration system, the filtered water was clean enough to drink.
The effluent from the Butcher Block flows into the Mound City lagoon. Over the past few months, Mound City officials have indicated the city has been put on notice by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) about the lagoon being too full and warning that it could shut it down.
Smith said that before the filter was installed, the company’s effluent would literally turn the lagoons red when animals were being processed.
In a news release from the EPA website, EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox said, “EPA’s proposal to reduce water pollution from meat and poultry processing facilities will prevent millions of pounds of pollutants from entering our nation’s waters.”
This isn’t the first time the issue has come up. At the June 19, 2023, commission meeting, County Counselor Gary Thompson presented a resolution to oppose this EPA rule at the request of Commissioner Jim Johnson. No discussion was held and no motion was made on the proposal.
The proposed rule has drawn fire from livestock associations, including the National Cattelemen’s Beef Association.
The following is the presentation that Ragland made to the Linn County Commissioners:
“(In) January 2025, the EPA with the help of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), intends to limit the direct and indirect effluent discharges of nitrogen, phosphorous and chemicals, referred to as forever chemicals to waste water from meat and poultry slaughter processing facilities,” said Ragland.
She said the filtration systems needed have a cost of a $250,000 to $500,000, according to the EPA, Ragland told the commission. This cost doesn’t include what the maintenance and cleaning will be from there on out, so approximately yearly $75,000 to $100,000.
By declaring opposition to the EPA plan Linn County can help their only small processor and business of which in turn will help every independent meat processor stay in business, Ragland said.
“During COVID, there was a shortage of viable protein in the grocery stores, in turn many of my friends and neighbors in Texas, as I live there, and Kansas depended on their local small meat processor to harvest their animals so they could in turn sell their product to the consumer,” she said.
At the time the USDA handed out grants encouraging locals to put in small meat processing plants to aid the food chain, Ragland said. Now with one hand the EPA is trying to erase what the USDA has put into place. In turn, losing the only meat processor in town, jeopardize other small producers in the county from their animals being harvested.
“Every state in America is concerned with the EPA sanctions and are utilizing not only their ag representatives as well as the meat processors of America, state departments of agriculture, Kansas Beef Council, Kansas Livestock Association, Texas Department of Agriculture, Texas Cattle Feeders (Association), Texas Beef Council and other groups,” she concluded.
Johnson said that a commissioner came up to him at the Kansas Association of Counties, (KAC) and talked to him about it.
County Clerk David Lamb told the commissioners that he had sent them a copy two or three weeks ago that Ragland had sent him of the resolution that the Miami County Commission had passed.
County Counselor Thompson said that he had read it over and he was not opposed to it, because it just said that the county was opposed to it and not enacting anything.
Commissioner Jason Hightower and Johnson said they would be in favor of Thompson drafting a resolution.