Roaring River State Park is one our family’s favorite places. For many years my husband and his brother went there for the opening day of trout season, usually braving cold weather and sometimes sleet or snow, and our two families had a tradition of weekends together at the park.

Roaring River State Park is one our family’s favorite places.  For many years my husband and his brother went there for the opening day of trout season, usually braving cold weather and sometimes sleet or snow, and our two families had a tradition of weekends together at the park.   
The older girls liked to fish with their dads, and all of us liked hiking to the overlook above the cave where we could look down and see Roaring River Spring’s deep blue pool at the base of the bluff.
Roaring River’s popularity reaches well beyond our area.   Several years ago when Wes and I were vacationing in Cancun, he went deep-sea fishing with a group of other tourists.   During dinner with fishermen and families that evening, everyone was asked where their homes were. When I said that we lived in Missouri the lady beside me exclaimed, “Missouri?  My favorite place in the whole world is in Missouri!” She then said that the place was Roaring River.  
Our Ozarks lakes and rivers offer excellent fishing, as well as swimming and water sports.  In addition to their recreational role, our water features play a significant role in the area’s economy by the tourism they attract.  One out of 12 Missouri jobs is tourism-related, according to Missouri Division of Tourism Director Dan Lennon.   
In more recent years some of our trips to Roaring River have been to support group efforts to protect the park and it’s stream from pollution by factory farming operations. It’s threatened by chicken operations that operate disturbingly close to it.
 According to the EPA, chicken, hog, and cattle excrement have polluted 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states and contaminated groundwater in 17 states.  It reported that mega farms pollute our waterways more than all other industrial sources combined.
Southwestern Minnesota gives us a look into the future of areas saturated with concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).  There are no swimmable lakes in a 1,783-square-mile stretch.  
Minnesota’s problem isn’t theirs alone.  Polluted water feeds into rivers and streams and taints downstream waterways.  As these giant pollution producers expand their industry to include more farmland, they poison the surrounding territory’s water.  This is the future for those in the path of the CAFO method of farming, and that includes the Ozarks.
In December of 2017 Missouri governor Eric Greitens appointed three new members to the Clean Water Commission, which controls the granting of permits to factory farms. All of the appointees have ties to agriculture. Formerly it was compulsory that members of the general public have seats on the commission, but legislation passed in 2016 eliminated the requirement, resulting in farm-friendly members gaining control.
Not only do mega farms fail to provide more jobs than the number of farmers they force out, they are a threat to the survival of tourism, whose prosperity often depends on water features.   The appeal of fishing and boating on our scenic lakes and rivers or enjoying the view while floating downstream past impressive bluffs and quiet pools will be lost, unless factory farming is checked.
 Deteriorating water quality threatens the job security of the one in twelve Missourians whose livelihood depends on Ozarks waterways.  When this situation is added to Missouri’s growing reputation as unsafe because of racial tension in our major cities and the gun culture of our rural areas, we have reason to be gravely concerned about the economy of our state.  Our water quality must not be sacrificed to the insatiable greed of the robber barons of agriculture.

Vera Nall writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.