JEFFERSON CITY — Displaying “Farm and Rural Values” badges, dozens of small farm owners, county commissioners and other rural residents visited the Capitol on Wednesday to lobby against two proposed bills.
Their beef was with Senate Bill 187 and House Bill 376. The bills would exclude large corporate farms from state regulation and leave them only under federal regulations. The bills would also limit local authority in health and zoning ordinances. The protesters say that although deregulation might be a boon for big business, it could hurt small family farms.
Rhonda Perry, who works for the Rural Crisis Center in Columbia, organized the press conference, which took place on the south steps of the Capitol.
Perry’s brothers, Steve Perry and Mike Perry of Chillicothe, help out on their father’s farm after finishing work at Wire Rope and Caterpillar. They say they had to take the jobs to make ends meet.
Corporations like Smithfield and Premium Standard Farms, which raise hogs from “birth to bacon,” can push family farmers out of the market, Rhonda Perry said.
Steve Perry said many farmers have had to go work for large corporations after their farms went under.
“I couldn’t let myself work for somebody that destroyed my life,” he said. “How could you do that?”
Rep. Jim Guest, R-King City, who sponsored the House bill, said he was fighting for the rights of individual farmers. He said current regulations make it impossible for growth and expansion.
“This legislation will allow all farmers across any county to compete equally,” he said. “We are fighting for the rights of the individual livestock farmer to farm within the laws of the state of Missouri without being hampered by overregulation by some individual county.”
Rep. Wes Shoemyer, D-Clarence, said the bill fighting for family farms was “bull.”
“I believe that government is best when it’s closest to the people,” Shoemyer said.
He said another provision of the bill would allow public notification just one day before an application for a permit for a large-scale animal farm is granted. Currently, the public has to be notified before a permit application can be requested.
“It’s just a bad-neighbor policy, a bad-neighbor bill,” Shoemyer said.