The Missouri legislature is passing laws that make the world safe for Big Pig. That means the world is a lot less safe for the rest of us.
One of my favorite pictures is one of Dad when he was about 10 years old, standing next to Granddad’s prize hog.
A good caption would be “Are you gonna eat that?’
That’s about the way some of us in Missouri feel about the current CAFO hog craze raging through the Missouri state capitol, Jefferson City. (CAFO, as in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation.) The House and Senate have both passed bills allowing Big Pig CAFO corporations to do just about anything they want.
According to the wisdom of our elected leaders, if a CAFO damages a neighbor, damages are limited to the sale price of the property. Wreck my home and all you have to do is hire an appraiser, get a price and buy me out.
If this had been science fiction instead of a real life story of bad legislation the title would have been “The Hog That Ate Missouri.”
What the Missouri General Assembly affirms is that there’s no such thing as a bad CAFO. If you want to compete with corporations, big or small, or simply live next to them, then you’ll have to do it on their terms even if you were living there first.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a farmer. I’ve had fertilizer of the livestock variety on my boots and I’m not allergic to it. It’s just that what’s going on here is an insult to responsible livestock producers wherever they are.
Whether you like them or not, not every CAFO is all bad. Some facilities are well designed and maintained, placed in just the right spot. Others are chronic bad actors. The good ones don’t deserve to be lumped together with the bad.
But that’s what Missouri has done by taking away the incentive to be good.
According to Missouri House Bill 209 and Senate Bill 187, if Big Pig encroaches on my rights, the best I can do after hiring a lawyer and fighting all the way to the Supreme Court, is win the amount they cost me. They’re free to take, and take, and take again, until they’ve taken the full value of my property without ever paying a penalty. If the stink from a Big Pig operation devalues my $200,000 property by $75,000, the CAFO is liable for $75,000. That’s it. No damages.
Once the value of my home is eaten up, I’m fresh out of luck.
When the House and Senate blend the two bills and make them one, about the only hope left is that Governor Jay Nixon, a long time proponent of local control since his Attorney General days, will refuse to sign such stinky political offal into law.
What prompted this bill? Well, last year 15 residents in northwest Missouri sued Premium Standard Farms (a CAFO with a reputation) and won $11 million in damages. PSF is owned by the momma sow, Smithfield, and they cite this verdict as evidence that Big Pig needs the overreaching protection of the Missouri legislature. The folks who rendered this lard in Jefferson City say like it or lump it, that’s the way the sausage sizzles.
Look out below, they’re not done yet. The Missouri Senate must now consider SB 278 that would give Big Pig protection against damages under the water laws.
There’s one unanswered question that lingers in the minds of many; Now that Missouri has greased a path for Big Pig pollution that resembles corporate take-all power of eminent domain, and Missouri voters have lost a big slab of their property rights….how big can Big Pig in Missouri grow?
Richard Oswald is a fifth generation Missouri farmer, a regular Yonder columnist and President of the Missouri Farmers Union.