This year, Missouri Rural Crisis Center (MRCC) members and supporters as well as our urban allies, had significant wins on issues of Local Democracy, Sustainable Agriculture and Nutrition and the Environment. Thanks to all who made phone calls, sent emails and letters, attended lobby days and met with their legislators on these issues. These actions were the deciding factor in this very difficult political landscape. Below is a summary of wins and losses for Missouri's legislative session.
SB 1009: The Seed Bill -- Win
We killed the Seed Bill. The Seed Bill, sponsored by Senator Klindt, would have stripped away the power of local governments and the state by giving sole decision-making power of Missouris seed industry over to the Federal Government. This bill would have prohibited any attempts to regulate any matter relating to the registration, labeling, sale, storage, transportation, processing, distribution, notification of use, use, or planting of seeds and other propagules.
In addition to taking away local rights on all regulation of seeds or other viable plant parts, and giving sole decision making power to the state, Senate Bill 1009 required that no state regulation shall be more restrictive than federal regulations pertaining to research, development, and use of seed and other propagule technologies.
This bill would have eliminated the authority and ability of state and local elected representatives to protect the economic interests of Missouris family farmers and was strongly promoted by the biotech and pharmaceutical crop industry, including Monsanto and Bayer.
MRCC farmer members, along with rice farmers from the bootheel, strongly opposed this bill. Hundreds of phone calls were made in protest of the anti-local control (democracy) nature of SB 1009.
MRCC would like to thank all contributors to the seed bill ad campaign, which informed Missouri citizens of the seed bill's existence and helped generate public outcry.
MRCC would also like to thank Senators Barnitz, Mayer and Purgason for their support in opposition to this anti-democratic legislation.
HCR 33/SCR 31: National Animal Identification System -- Win
Rep. Mike Dethrow and Senator Chuck Purgason introduced House and Senate resolutions both urging the federal government to keep the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) a voluntary program. Both resolutions passed.
We held one of three local control lobby days in conjunction with the Animal ID rally at the capitol on April 18th. 200 farm and rural citizens attended the rally and lobby day to voice opposition to NAIS and SB 1009, The Seed Bill.
Missouris Family Farmers believe it is extremely important to ensure consumer confidence in the safety and health of the U.S. food supply while at the same time ensuring the economic viability of independent livestock producers. However, NAIS does not meet the needs of producers or consumers. NAIS:
- Creates an undue economic burden on producers,
- Provides an unfair advantage for industrial livestock operations over independent producers
- Shifts liability from packers to producers
- Does not include identification of imported meats
- Does nothing to increase consumer information, choice or trust
- And expands packers ability to unfairly discriminate against family farmers
HB 1147: The Dirty Secrets Bill -- Win
We stopped the Audit Privilege Bill (Dirty Secrets Bill), which has been pushed by powerful industry lobby groups for several years. The bill has taken various forms but the intent has always been to allow industry to conduct self-audits, close any information contained in the audits from the public & employees as well as grants the polluter immunity from prosecution for their confession. This legislation would provide polluters immunity from fines or penalties as long as they self-report! The public is entitled to know when companies pollute or toxic releases occur. This is a right to know issue!
Government regulators are already too close to the regulated industry. Business should know that serious consequences await those who put communities at risk and damage the environment. The public should not be kept in the dark! Conspiracies to conceal pollution from the public are irresponsible and should not be Missouri state law.
SCR 29: Proposed Sale of Mark Twain National Forest -- Win
Although this proposal is still up for debate within the Federal Legislature, MRCC along with our allies rallied support in opposition to the sale of Mark Twain National Forest. We gathered hundreds of signatures from farm families, property owners and hunters early on in the debate and delivered them to Congressional Representatives Sam Graves, Kenny Hulshof, and Jo Ann Emerson.
Also, Senator Chuck Graham sponsored a concurrent resolution (SCR29) that expressed the Missouri State Legislatures opposition to the proposal to sell off national forest land. We supported this resolution that passed the Senate. The House also passed a resolution introduced by Representative Dennis Wood (HR2439).
HB 1010: The Farmers Market Nutrition Program -- Win
Because of hundreds of phone calls from family farmers and consumers, the Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) was put back into the state budget. The budget proposal is $32,000 from the states general revenue, and a proposal to the federal government for $80,000 in matching funds. This is dependent upon Governor Blunt leaving it in the budget.
Last year the Governor line item vetoed from the budget the FMNP and many other programs that we support. We cannot let him veto this program again!!! (Please see email action alert.)
HB 1149: Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) stormwater runoff defined as non-point source discharge -- Loss.
In the last 24 hours of the legislative session, a few Missouri Senators slipped a bad amendment by us and Missouris family farmers. The House version of HB 1149 was amended on the Senate floor late on Thursday (May 11th) by Senator Klindt, and passed, with no debate allowed by the House on Friday (May 12th) with 20 minutes left in the 2006 legislative session. The amendment redefined "point source" discharge to not include agricultural stormwater discharges and return flows from irrigated agriculture. There is conflicting information regarding the impact of this legislation, but the way the bill was secretly passed draws a lot of suspicion. This is a big step backwards for us, said Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon. If these guys thought this was a good idea, they would have had committee hearings on it. They wouldnt have tucked it on the back end of a bill that they knew needed to pass.
No Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) Legislation -- Win
At the beginning of the legislative session, the chairmen of the House and Senate Ag Committees announced the decision not to attempt legislation on issues pertaining to CAFOs. This announcement was good news to family farmers and rural citizens and was a direct result of public outcry against attempts by the legislature to limit local control on this issue.
There is no doubt that an attempt to strip counties of local control regarding county health ordinances will be pushed by corporate agriculture lobbyist next year. Because industrial livestock operations (which make up less than 1/2 of 1 percent of Missouris farming operations) are exempt from planning and zoning, health ordinances continue to be the only mechanism by which counties can protect the health and welfare of the majority of family farmers, rural landowners and citizens.
Family farmers and rural citizens across the state will continue to fight for independent family farms, healthy communities, property rights and local democracy.
Published in In Motion Magazine, May 30, 2006
Interview with Rhonda Perry
of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center
Grassroots Missouri Organizing Since 1985
A Variety of Tactics, Consistent Strategies
Missourians For Local Control
Supporting Local Government -- Closer to the People
by Tim Gibbons, Rhonda Perry, Terry Spence