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Governor Nixon Sells Out Missouri Cattle Farmers
& Creates Loophole to Allow Foreign Corporations
to Buy More Missouri Farmland

by Missouri Rural Crisis Center
Columbia, Missouri

Cattle on the Allison/Perry farm, Howard County, Missouri. Photo by Nic Paget-Clarke.
Cattle on the Allison/Perry farm, Howard County, Missouri. Photo by Nic Paget-Clarke.
April 10, 2015 -- Today, Governor Nixon signed Senate Bill 12, a terrible pro-corporate agriculture bill that 1) allows for the implementation of a new beef check-off tax on cattle producers 2) and creates a huge loophole for foreign corporations to buy and control more Missouri farmland while by-passing state laws that limit foreign corporate ownership of Missouri farmland. 
“Since 1978, Missouri has been committed to protecting our farmland from extractive foreign corporate interests.  Missouri farmers don’t think it is a good idea to open up hundreds of thousands of acres of Missouri farmland to unaccountable, foreign corporations,” said Roger Allison, grain and cattle producer from Howard County, MO and director of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center.  “Governor Nixon and the Missouri legislature are on the wrong side of history and the wrong side of the future of Missouri agriculture.” 
In 2013, the legislature passed a bill that opened up 289,000 acres (1%) of Missouri farmland to foreign, corporate ownership, and, one week later, the largest meatpacker in China bought out Smithfield Foods and now owns 50,000 acres of Missouri farmland. 
And now, Governor Nixon’s signature on Senate Bill 12 creates a colossal loophole that allows foreign entities to purchase and control Missouri farmland outside of (and in addition to) the current 1% cap. 
Senate Bill 12 also allows the Missouri Beef Council to implement a new and additional beef tax that producers would have to pay every time a cow or calf is sold.  Missouri beef producers are already paying over $2 million in beef check off fees each year into the current federal check-off program.  Now, Senate Bill 12 will allow for the creation of a new, state beef check-off program that can equal the amount of the federal check-off.  And, right now, industry groups and the federal government are attempting to double the federal beef check-off tax.  So, this could quadruple the amount Missouri beef producers are taxed to $8 million each year going into an unnecessary, unaccountable and unpopular program. 
“The last thing Missouri cattle farmers need is another tax and another government program,” said Darvin Bentlage, cattle farmer from Barton County, MO.  “The current beef check-off is an obsolete, unsuccessful program that was put in place 30 years ago.  Since the check-off started in the 1980’s, beef consumption has plummeted by 28% and Missouri has lost 40% of our beef producers.  Throwing more money at the same failed strategy doesn’t make economic sense.  The legislature and Governor should have sided with Missouri’s independent cattle farmers instead of unaccountable big ag special interests.” 
The lead organization in support of and lobbying for Senate Bill 12 was the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association.  An organization that is increasingly out-of-touch with the vast majority of Missouri’s cattle producers, and lobbied not only for an increased beef check-off tax but also for allowing foreign corporations to increasingly own Missouri farmland. 
• If the legislature and the Governor want to really do what is best for family farmers, they will pass a bill before May 15th (the last day of the legislative session) that lowers the amount of farmland that can be owned by foreign entities to ½% and closes the loophole that allows foreign corporations to by-pass Missouri law.  This would keep thousands and thousands of Missouri acres from being owned and controlled by foreign corporate interests. 

• If the Governor has any intention of convincing producers that this bill is anything more than predetermined tax on their livelihoods, he must ensure that all stakeholders who represent beef producers are at the table to ensure the most transparent and fair process possible under the law. 

Hundreds of Missouri family farmers and cattle producers contacted Governor Nixon’s office in opposition to SB 12, and thousands of Missouri cattle producers contacted MRCC declaring their opposition to a new beef check-off tax.  We stand with these producers.  Unfortunately, Senate Bill 12 is a prime example of unaccountable government in Missouri in which politicians are simply carrying the water for corporate agribusiness at the expense of family farms and the future of agriculture in our state. 
For more information, please contact the Missouri Rural Crisis Center:
  • (573) 449-1336

Published in In Motion Magazine April 21, 2015