Letter to the Editor

Your view: Approve SB364

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The Future of Agriculture in Missouri

American agricultural producers have long taken pride in their work, producing a safe, affordable food supply for our nation and the world. They have done this while making slim to no margins of profit, despite federal farm programs that critics call "welfare." I call it American food independence and security.

In the past year, as a result of Katrina and replacing MTBE with ethanol oxygenates, the price of corn has risen to profitable levels. At this, critics complain that their food prices will increase. Yet farmers cannot control their rising input costs, nor set their profits. They are at the mercy of the market. Many have been forced out of business over the years, causing the number of farmers to decrease and the size of farming operations to increase. At this, critics declare that contract production and confinement operations are corporate farms not family farming operations.

Today, agriculture faces a new demon- county "health" ordinances. At this time, there are 17 out of 114 Missouri counties who have such ordinances. While called "health" ordinances, many are just glorified zoning ordinances. At a time when agricultural producers are forced to enlarge their operations to maintain a profitable venture, counties are restricting this type of growth. Most of these bans are not scientifically-based, they are "aesthetically" based. If something is not done to protect the agricultural sector of our economy from unwarranted regulation, the economy of the state as a whole will wither. Not only that, but the security of our food supply will be at risk. I don't think any reasonable person in this state or nation wants to become dependent on other nations to supply food for OUR people. The different social and business sectors of this state must learn to co-exist, and work for the good of all.

SB364, the Missouri Farm and Food Preservation Act was created for such a purpose. It is a proposal which prevents counties from proposing stricter regulations on agricultural operations than are in place at the state and national level. The EPA and DNR currently have standards protecting health and the environment that must be met by any farming operation. It would be a shame for developers and litigation teams to squeeze production agriculture from the state of Missouri. The Missouri Association of Counties has come out in support of this bill, as well as local county commissioners. There is a coalition of 19 mainstream agricultural organizations in this state support this bill.

Thursday, the Missouri Senate voted, not to pass SB 364, but to create a "study committee", which would in effect put this bill on hold at a time when its passage is critical. To postpone its passage would ensure that even more counties would legislate farming out of their areas.

Some who oppose SB 364 have referred to it as a CAFO bill. That is simply not the case. SB 364 would prevent senseless regulation on an industry that is already properly regulated. It would also prevent senseless lawsuits from preying upon law-abiding farmers. This legislation applies to agriculture in all parts of our state, row crop as well as animal agriculture. If you want to continue to be blessed with a domestically produced, safe and affordable food supply, you need to support SB 364. I ask that you call your Senators today and encourage them to back this legislation. It will be to all of our benefits.

Jami Geske