GUEST COMMENTARY: Corporate control drives Missouri farmers out of business

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In response to Blake Hurst’s guest column ("Mo. farmers need consistent rules for raising livestock," March 8), I would like to set the record straight on a few things.

Mr. Hurst says, “Missouri Senate Bill 391 is opposed by people who either don’t like bacon or don’t realize how it’s made.”

However, we at the Missouri Rural Crisis Center and Patchwork Family Farms not only like bacon, we market hundreds of thousands of pounds of family farm pork every year. Our members are farmers and rural citizens who support agriculture every day. And we oppose Senate Bill 391.

So here are some facts:

• Corporate agri-business and their lobbyists are attempting to take away local control and our rights. Why? They would rather have decisions being made where their money and lobbyists have the biggest impact, at the state and federal levels of government. But family farmers, county commissioners and rural citizens are standing up to these attacks and fighting to protect local control.

• Senate Bill 391, introduced by state Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-6, Cole County, would strip local control from ALL rural counties, taking away our right to protect ourselves and our neighbors from the negative impacts of corporate-controlled industrial livestock operations, including foreign-controlled Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). This bill even overturns the will of the people when farmers and rural people have voted to protect their communities from out-of-state and foreign CAFOs.

• CAFOs are industrial livestock operations that create millions of gallons of waste, dead animals, decreased property values and degradation of our water and air. CAFO corporations and their lobbyists have zero allegiance to our state and our country. Most CAFOs are controlled by entities that are not based in Missouri and many aren’t even American.

Senate Bill 391 is state governmental overreach at its worst. People who live in our communities know what’s best for our communities, not corporate lobbyists, bureaucrats and politicians.

Many of the organizations that support this bill are the same groups that have supported pro-corporate policies at the expense of family farmers and rural communities for far too long.

They include:

• Killing country of origin labeling (COOL), which allowed consumers to know and be able to choose American meat over foreign imports.

• Leading the charge to force Missouri beef producers to pay an additional mandatory beef tax of $2 million every year. (But, thanks to Missouri cattle farmers who stood up to this attack, it was voted it down by 75 percent to 25 percent.)

• And just last year, the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association joined with the Missouri Pork Association and Chinese-owned Smithfield to support allowing foreign corporations to own Missouri farmland.

Unfortunately, these same groups also supported the corporatization of the pork industry and the results have been devastatingly clear. In just one generation:

• 90 percent (over 20,000) of Missouri's hog producers are out of business.

• Consumers are paying 121 percent more for pork.

• And, TWO foreign corporations now control half of the entire U.S. hog industry.

This corporate controlled system drives people away from rural Missouri and puts farmers out of business and off the land. We can’t afford any more of their corporate model and vision for the future of agriculture and our state.

They want to take away local control and are trying to force industrial livestock operations into our communities with no accountability protect ourselves, our land and our way of life.

Twenty rural counties have passed health ordinances to protect their communities from the negative impacts of corporate-controlled CAFOs, including common sense setbacks from homes, populated areas, and wells and water sources.

Many of these ordinances have been in place for decades protecting family farmers, property owners and citizens that have been there for generations.

And right now the state government and corporate ag lobbyists want to take away our rights along with the only way we have to protect ourselves from unaccountable, absentee and foreign corporations that are bent on controlling our food supply and making profits at any cost.

Senate Bill 391 is an attack on our fundamental rights as citizens to have government that is closest to the people.

CAFOs make up only half of 1 percent of Missouri’s farming operations. Our elected representatives should be working to protect the majority of Missourians, instead of a small number of corporate-controlled CAFOs.

We need to make a stand for local control and independent family farms, not out-of-state and foreign corporate factory farms.

We need local control, not corporate control — our future depends on it.

Roger Allison is a cattle farmer and director of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center.

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