Cattle feedlot, processing plant hoping to expand in Lone Jack causes controversy for community

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LONE JACK, Mo. -- A cattle feedlot's plans to expand has created quite the debate in Lone Jack.

Valley Oaks Steak Company hopes to expand their cattle feedlot and processing plant in the Jackson County town. In a letter sent to community members, the company said they want to increase the number of cattle from nearly 900 to 6,999.

Some neighbors are worried about air quality and environmental concerns, but supporters of the plant said it would provide a big economic boost for the community.

Carolyn Wilkinson grew up on the same property her family purchased more than 100 years ago.

She started the Facebook group "Lone Jack Neighbors for Responsible Farming," after learning about Valley Oaks Steak Company's plans for expansion. Since starting the group, nearly 300 community members have since joined.

Wilkinson said one of her concerns is that they have already had issues with odor coming from the plant. She worries the proposed expansion would negatively impact air quality.

"The odor is going to keep us all inside," she said. "We are all outside people. We all garden and are all active outside, so it was devastating."

Jake Huddleston works at Valley Oaks Steak Company. He said the demand for local meat has grown rapidly since opening their Lone Jack plant nearly a year ago.

He said the proposed expansion would bring an additional 50 to 100 new jobs to the area over the next year.

Huddleston said they have methods in place to control the smell and stop potential runoff.

"We have multiple steps in process to help control the odors," he said. "One of the cool things we are doing is going out to the local woodworkers, getting their wood chips and bedding material and having all the cattle on wood chips or straw bedding material. So we move that and compost it and then there is no runoff."

The decision is now in the hands of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Huddleston said they have satisfied all their requirements up to this point. He expects to hear back from the department in the next 30 days.

There has already been one scheduled meeting among community members living in Lone Jack. Many of them have reached out to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources asking for a public hearing.