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Missouri Senate Bill 364 2007

A Blatant Attack on Family Farmers, Rural Communities,
Local Control, and Property Rights

by Rhonda Perry
Howard County, Missouri

Supporters of Corporate Agriculture want you to believe that industrial livestock factories are the same as independent family farms. Don’t Buy the Hogwash! Senate Bill 364, introduced by Senator Koster, is a blatant attack on family farmers, rural communities, local control & property rights. What does SB 364, deceivingly spun as the Missouri Farm and Food Preservation really do?

  • SB 364 eliminates all local ordinances on industrial livestock operations and takes away authority of local elected representatives to protect the health, welfare and property rights of the majority of family farmers, landowners and rural citizens.

  • SB 364 abolishes constitutional rights of farmers and property owners to legally challenge corporate livestock factories when the negative impacts of these operations infringe upon their property rights.

The operations that would be protected by this bill are a small minority of corporate controlled, industrial livestock facilities. Out of Missouri’s 105,000 farming operations, less than 1/2 of 1% are regulated as CAFOs. In order to protect this very small minority of industrial livestock operations the majority of farmers and landowners will be left without adequate protection from the potential negative impacts of CAFOs. Very simply, this bill protects the rights of corporate agri-business at the expense of the vast majority of independent family farmers and property owners.

The industrial livestock lobby -- the Farm Bureau, Missouri Pork Association, Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, etc. -- want you to believe that we have to give Corporate Ag free reign in order for agriculture to survive in our state. The truth is Missouri’s family farmers have never needed legislation to exempt them from being good neighbors.

Livestock has always been, and must continue to be an integral part of Missouri’s economy. However, it does matter who is producing the livestock: corporate controlled livestock factories or independent family farms who spend their money locally, create jobs and are good neighbors.

A Missouri study found that corporate contract operations create a net loss of employment. While creating 9 jobs for every 12,000 hogs produced, corporate contract operations displace 28 jobs. When comparing an equal number of sows on corporate contract operations versus family farms, the family farm system creates: 10% more permanent jobs, a 20% larger increase in local retail sales and a 37% larger increase in local income per capita. The number of farmers raising hogs is more important to the economic viability of rural communities than simply the number of hogs being produced.

Industrial livestock operations decrease property values for neighboring farmers and landowners. A study by the University of Missouri found that property values near CAFOs decreased from 6.6% to 88% depending on property attributes and distance from the CAFO. In the July 2001 Appraisal Journal, John Kilpatrick found that “while the appraisal profession has only begun to quantify the loss attributable to CAFOs, … diminished marketability, loss of use and enjoyment, and loss of exclusivity can result in a diminishment ranging from 50% to nearly 90% of otherwise unimpaired value.”

Corporate concentration in the hog industry has not benefited independent producers or consumers. In the last 15 years, hog numbers in Missouri have stayed the same (2,700,000), while the number of hog farmers has decreased 85% from 15,000 to 2,200. From 1985-2005, the retail price of pork increased 75% from $1.62 to $2.83. During the same period, the hog producers’ share of the retail dollar decreased 30% from $.44 to $.31.

The health impacts of CAFOs are well documented. There are volumes of peer-reviewed scientific research, demonstrating the effects of CAFOs on worker and public health. University researchers as well as scientists convened by the Centers for Disease Control have found increased nausea, headaches, brain damage, vomiting or diarrhea and even life-threatening pulmonary edema. Studies in Iowa show that children living next to CAFOs have higher rates of asthma than do other farm children. The American Public Health Association has called for a moratorium on new CAFOs pending additional research on these documented risks.

Can industrial livestock operations afford to be good neighbors? Not according to industry leaders. After a 5-year $17.3 million effort to find alternative methods of treating hog waste, researchers identified five technologies that would be more environmentally friendly than the existing method. However, industry leaders say these technologies are not economically viable. Their position is that economic feasibility must mean no increased cost of doing business. Currently, no method is as cheap as digging a hole in the ground and filling it up with hog waste.

With their vast financial resources, industrial livestock supporters are skilled at generating a smokescreen to hide behind family farmers, while promoting a corporate livestock agenda. It’s ironic that in 1996, when the current state standards were being proposed, these same organizations swore that it would mean the end of animal agriculture in our state -- the sky was definitely falling. These are the same standards that they now say are completely adequate for protecting CAFO neighbors. We can assume that the sky will always be falling any time local elected representatives want to ensure that corporate agribusiness will be the same good neighbors family farmers have always been.

If our legislators are serious about supporting agriculture in Missouri, they should propose policies to support the system of agriculture that continues to be the backbone of Missouri’s rural economy -- independent family farms. Instead of trying to make us believe that Corporate Ag is the future of our state and must be protected at all costs, they should be promoting policies to ensure fair, open and competitive markets for family farmers. After all, any system of agriculture that consistently infringes on the property rights of neighboring farmers and landowners in order to survive is not likely to be the future of agriculture in our state and is not worthy of protection at the expense of the majority of family farmers.

Rhonda Perry is a livestock and grain farmer from Howard County. She is also the program director for the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, a farm and rural organization that represents 5600 farm and rural member families.

Published in In Motion Magazine, March 25, 2007

Also see:

Interview with Rhonda Perry
of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center
Grassroots Missouri Organizing Since 1985
A Variety of Tactics, Consistent Strategies
Armstrong, Missouri

Missourians For Local Control
“Supporting Local Government -- Closer to the People”
by Tim Gibbons, Rhonda Perry, Terry Spence
Kirksville, Missouri

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