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Governor Holden Stands Up
for Family Farmers and Rural Missouri

Vetoes Bill That Would Expand Economic and Environmental
Threats of Industrial Agriculture

Missouri Rural Crisis Center
Jefferson City, Missouri

Family farmers, rural citizens and people concerned about clean air and water in Missouri applauded Governor Bob Holden today for vetoing House Bill 1177, a bill that would have rolled back public accountability standards for industrial livestock facilities (CAFOs -- Confined Animal Feeding Operations) in Missouri.

"By vetoing House Bill 1177, Governor Holden has shown his leadership in support of family farmers, rural communities and the environment," said Dallas County farmer and Missouri Rural Crisis Center member Jim Compton. "We have to choose. Do we want thousands of family farms and rural business to raise and process our food, or do we want to depend on a handful of CAFOs and industrial meatpackers? Governor Holden has chosen the right path&Mac247;the path that sustains family farms, prosperous rural communities and a clean environment."

Missouri's current CAFO laws came about in the mid-1990s as citizens demanded stronger accountability measures to protect rural Missouri from the economic, environmental and public health threats posed by industrial livestock. Thousands of citizens traveled to the Capital, made phone calls and wrote letters to their legislators calling for this system of public disclosure and public debate. During the last two legislative sessions, CAFO supporters have attempted to repeal these laws in order in order to make it easier to bring more industrial livestock development to the state. Out of 110,000 Missouri farms, only 438 are subject to the statutory public accountability and environmental safeguards giant livestock operators are trying to roll back.

Margot McMillen, MRCC member and Callaway County livestock producer, believes that livestock have always been, and should continue to be, an integral part of Missouri's economy and a key element in sustainable diversified farming operations. "But a pig is not just a pig. A hog raised by Premium Standard Farms and a hog raised on a diversified independent family farm have very different impacts on Missouri's economy and environment. Missouri is proud to be the state with the second highest number of farmers, most of whom are diversified family farmers who raise crops and livestock. We don&Mac226;t want to sacrifice this family farm system of agriculture by passing laws that benefit the biggest 438 livestock producers in the state."

Missouri has had more than a decade of experience to evaluate the impacts of CAFOs, and the record speaks for itself:

  • Factory farms decrease property values. Farms and communities within a few miles of factory farms have had their property devalued by 5 to 50 percent depending on the distance, according to a University of Missouri study and the Appraisal Journal.
  • Industrial livestock facilities generate massive amounts of manure that pose a dangerous threat to the air and water in rural areas. In three counties of northern Missouri, Premium Standard Farms produces 1.6 million hogs per year. These facilities generate the same waste as a city of more than 2 million people. These facilities have discharged more than a million gallons of liquefied feces into the streams and rivers of northern Missouri.
  • While factory farm income is usually siphoned off as profit for investors, family farm hog producers turn to other businesses in their communities to provide the needed inputs for their farms. When comparing an equal number of sows on factory farms versus family farms, the family farm system creates 10 percent more permanent jobs, a 20 percent larger increase in local retail sales and a 37 percent larger increase in local income per capita.
  • A University of Missouri study found that factory farms create a net loss of employment because they drive family farmers and the local merchants that depend upon them out of business. Twelve thousand hogs produced under factory farm contracts would create 9.44 jobs, but displace 27.97 jobs.
  • Neither consumers nor producers have benefited from this increasing industrialization. Since 1994, the price consumers pay for pork has climbed 35 percent from an average of $1.97 per pound to $2.66, while the farmer's share of the retail dollar plummeted nearly 38 percent from 37 cents to 23 cents.

Rather than policies that attempt to roll back public accountability for industrial livestock, MRCC supports measures that would truly help level the playing field for independent livestock producers, including:

  • Eliminating taxpayer subsidies to corporate factory farms;
  • Supporting a ban on meatpacker ownership of livestock;
  • Holding factory farm corporations financially liable for pollution caused by their operations;
  • Encouraging or requiring state institutions to use their food buying dollars to support local family farm produced food.

The Missouri Rural Crisis Center (MRCC) is a statewide farm and rural organization with more than 5,500 member families. MRCC's mission is to preserve family farms, promote stewardship of the land and environmental integrity, and to strive for economic and social justice by building unity and mutual understanding among diverse groups, both rural and urban.

Published in In Motion Magazine, July 19, 2004

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