1996 Successes against Mega-Hog Corporate Farms
Family Farmers Tally Successes
by Margot McMillen
Family farmers and community groups say that the mega-hog bill passed this week nudges the state towards protecting the quality of life in rural communities. Neighbors of proposed hog and poultry factories will now be notified and their comments considered before the state approves factory farms.
"We have worked hard to pass regulations that will make better neighbors of these animal factories," said Roger Allison, executive director of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center (MRCC) "and we have succeeded in moving the (Missouri state) House's do-nothing bill to a point where it will have some effect."
The original bill, introduced by Phil Tate (D-GaLatin), forbid local governments to set limits on mega-farms and silenced public comment when a factory was planned for a neighborhood. It also hindered protection of drinking water supply lakes and other sensitive watersheds.
"People took back their rights by organizing" said Steve Smith of Concerned Citizens of Pettis County. "We've proven that by making representatives accountable, we can win some basic protection."
Also agreed to in the final are modest buffer zones establishing setbacks from neighboring homes. Setbacks were a key point advanced by MRCC's ag(ricultural) policy task force throughout the session.
In two rally days at the Capitol and in numerous committee hearings, f'amily farmers and other neighbors of factory farms testified about their concerns; the need for cleanup of abandoned cesspools, compensation for lowered property values, and protection from contaminated streams, overpowering odor and harmful gases. As the session proceeded, rural organizations were joined by groups of urban enviromnentalists and citizens concerned about food quality. The Missouri League of Savings and Loans also joined the coalition, citing their concerns about property values near meg -farms.
ln a rally at the Capitol on April 24, the coalition presented petitions with 23,000 names in support of tougher regulation. Groups rallying at the Capitol included Missouri Coalition for the Environment, Missouri Rural Crisis Center, Ozark Chapter ofthe Sierra Club, National Farmers Organization, Concerned Citizens for Pettis County, Partners for Progress, Family Farms for the Future, Neighbors Against Large Swine Operations, Concerned Citizens for Henry County, Concerned Citizens for Benton County & Truman Lake, Friends of Heaths Creek Watershed, Missouri Environmental Action Network, Callawegians Opposed to Factory Farms, Concerned Citizens for Morgan County, and Citizens for Clean Country Living.
"We believe that regulation of factory farms will continue as a campaign issue," said Marvin McDonald, a Putnam Co. rancher and a candidate for a House seat in the fall. "And with our broadbased support from across the state, we expect to have even better success in the legislature next year."
Margot McMillen is a cattle farmer from Callaway, Missouri.