Environmental activists tried to push through an anti-agriculture bill which would have had dire consequences for all Missouri farmers. The bill was defeated. It would have changed the classification of farms from agricultural to industrial.
"This is a classic example of how unfounded proposals can escalate," observes David Bentley, president of the Missouri Pork Producers Association (MPPA). "The proponents claimed that they only wanted to affect the 'big guys,' but as has happened time and time again, it never stops there."
The bill would have tripled tax rates and farmers would have faced stifling regulations on labor, insurance and storm water treatment, Bentley says.
During the past few years, a second anti-agriculture element has succeeded in implementing "health ordinances" as a means of zoning production agriculture at the county level. MPPA is strongly calling for state and federal rules to regulate agriculture in the state.
MPPA has expressed support for a producer lawsuit against the Linn County commissioners for their enactment of a health ordinance last year, explains Jim Guest, MPPA president-elect.
MPPA also faces a challenge from the state's attorney general, who is driving efforts to regulate odors from livestock operations. MPPA's Guest says the goal, based on an attorney general's petition, is to regulate the odors coming from 17 large farms, most of which are hog operations.
To date, livestock operations have been exempt from any odor standards. Guest emphasizes MPPA wants to make sure that science is used in the development of any odor control standards.
House Bill 1207, which was passed by the 1996 state legislature, is still in the rulemaking process. It calls for setbacks, public notice and new production limits.
Missouri's breeding herd dipped 2% in the last USDA hog report, says Ron Plain, University of Missouri agricultural economist. Marketings have risen by 6% during the first quarter of the year.
He foresees slowed expansion in Missouri. Most of the growth the past few years has been by Continental Grain and Premium Standard Farms (PSF). With Continental's purchase of PSF, it is expected the parent firm will use PSF's holdings in Texas, where there is less opposition to the hog industry, to further expand.