MRCC Wins Major Victory for
Local Democracy and Family Farmers
by Tim Gibbons
Through its rural organizing power and public education, MRCC did make the issue of factory farms and local control a key issue in numerous local and statewide races during the 2006 election through mailings and public and candidate meetings. MRCC successfully distinguished local control as a wedge issue to split the usual base for pro-corporate politicians in November 2006. In areas like Northeast Missouri where local control vs. factory farms was a core values issue, citizens chose local control candidates over pro-corporate contenders in three out of four races.
Unfortunately, in the 2007 legislative session pro-corporate ag interests did not learn from the November elections that the majority of farmers and rural citizens support independent family farms and local democracy. Since both Houses and the Governors Office were heavily controlled by pro-corporate interests, and 2007 was not an election year, they knew this year was their best opportunity to stifle citizens voices on issues related to corporate agriculture. Governor Blunt made it one of his top three legislative priorities! In his State of the State, the Governor urged the legislature to pass Senate Bill 364. His other top priorities, and many of his lower priorities, passed the republican-controlled legislature. SB364 did not!
The Farm Bureau and 18 major commodity groups made SB364 their sole No. 1 priority in a State Legislature that they believe they control -- and they have, in the past. But as MRCC said in one of their many flyers:
MRCC organized a coalition, under the name Missourians for Local Control, that brought literally thousands of farmers, rural landowners and county commissioners from across the state into the debate resulting in bipartisan opposition sufficient to defeat these bills despite the priority placed on them by the people who normally dominate politics in rural Missouri. The CAFO Bills (SB 364 & SB 428) never had the votes to pass in the Senate or the House during 2007.
The politicians had to be made to understand that the majority of farmers and other property owners in rural Missouri, who are also the majority of voters in rural Missouri districts, would hold them (the politicians) accountable if they voted for these pro-corporate bills. Rural Missouri politics has historically been dominated by, and actually run by, the Farm Bureau and the commodity groups, who use misinformation about big government, combined with their overwhelming financial superiority, to control and demoralize rural civic participation. But its the property rights and democratic rights of the majority of family farmers and rural citizens that are being threatened by the small minority of industrial farm operators and the agribusiness corporations. MRCCs Rural Civic Participation campaign has been able to successfully increase the participation of the working class, low-income majority.
Published in In Motion Magazine February 12, 2008.
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