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Missourians For Local Control

“Supporting Local Government -- Closer to the People”

by Tim Gibbons, Rhonda Perry, Terry Spence
Kirksville, Missouri

Discussing local control and the future of family farms. Kirksville, Missouri.

Terry Spence speaks to the over 200 people present to discuss local control and the future of family farms. Kirksville, Missouri. Photo by Carla Klein.

CAFO in Missouri.

A CAFO in Missouri. Photo by Nic Paget-Clarke.

More than 200 people gathered at Truman State University at Kirksville to hear a panel of experts discuss local control and the future of family farms in Missouri. Missourians for Local Control sponsored the event, “Confined Animal Feeding Operations: Fact vs. Fiction”, in response to growing concerns about the industrialization of animal agriculture.

Missourians for Local Control is a network of organizations and individuals who believe that decisions about our communities should be made at the most local level possible, the level at which the very people who are impacted can best participate.

Dr. John Ikerd called the economic benefits from corporate agriculture a “fallacy” stating “the county eventually suffers the long-term negative impacts.” He called for rural people to stand up and claim their basic rights to protect their communities.

Panelist Mike Whitlock M.D. confirmed that the documented health concerns are real and very serious. Explaining, “The sewage from 8,000 hogs is equivalent to 20,000 people”. However, the sewage from corporate farms is untreated in open lagoons exposing the community to a myriad of toxins.

Tina Herleth, Citizens Against a Polluted Environment (CAPE), detailed the difference between family farmers and corporate operations. “Real family farmers give more back to the land than they take. They care for their animals, their neighbors and their community. We worship God, not money.” In contrast, corporate hog owners don’t even live in the state.

Linn County Commissioner Jim Libby said it was necessary for his county to step up and pass a county health ordinance to protect their citizens from factory farm pollution. Libby also said that the Linn County ordinance is highly supported by family farmers and citizens in his county. He warned that special interest legislators, influenced by big hog money, were going to try to take away the county’s right for local control again this next legislative session. “We need to be ready to fight for the right for local control when session begins in January,” Libby told the packed room. “Passing the ordinance was not an easy decision for our county because we don’t like to tell people what to do, but these operations were hurting our citizens, they could not stand to be outside their own homes. It was the right thing to do.”

Attorney General Jay Nixon was unable to attend the meeting but sent this statement of support. “I oppose Legislative attempts to strip local government of the authority to regulate mega-farms, which can contain hundreds of thousands of hogs or other livestock”. Mr. Nixon further stated “If officials at the local level determine that they want to have tougher standards for cleaner air or water for their constituents, they should have the right to do that. That right should not be taken away by state legislators who are swayed by multi-national agriculture corporations”.

The Missouri Rural Crisis Center (MRCC) helped organize the event on behalf of Missourians for Local Control. Ron Perry, an MRCC member and livestock and grain farmer from Livingston County, one of the twelve counties with a current health ordinance, said after the meeting, “this meeting provided further inspiration for us to continue to fight for local control and the ability of our counties to respond to the needs of their citizens”

“Government must be accessible to the people it serves, and any attempt to weaken local control is a threat to local democracy,” said Wes Shoemyer, Representative from the 9th District and a leader in stopping the bill last legislative session that would have decreased local control. “Government is best when it is closest to the people,” said Rep. Shoemyer.

This issue will prove to be a hot button issue this legislative session. Future local meetings are being planned to continue to unite independent family farmers and rural citizens to protect their communities.

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Published in In Motion Magazine, December 12, 2005

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