Animal Care in Missouri: What Is Going On? (continued)
By Darvin Bentlage
The Farm Bureau has helped form many different coalitions to combat any attempt that might regulate Factory Farming. It is troubling that coalitions made up of different agriculture groups combined might be crossing some lines as grain producers and livestock producers do not often see eye to eye. It also seems to be making professional board members out our board officers representing who knows who. The Farm Bureau, Missouri Soybean Growers, Missouri Corn Growers and others have helped form Missouri Ag Alliance with the intent of forming a livestock care standards board. An appointed board would more than likely be aligned with Corporate Big Ag people with the agenda to remove all restrictions or guidelines designed to protect the environment and the neighbors of the CAFO’s.
The Farm Bureau has a new coalition called Missourians for Animal Care (MAC) together with Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, Missouri Pork Association, Missouri Corn Growers, and Missouri Soybean Association. This coalition has backed a Constitutional Amendment House Joint Resolution No. 86. HJR 86 states that a citizen has the right to raise domesticated animals in compliance with state and local laws. State laws regarding the welfare of breeding of domesticated animals shall only be valid if they are enacted by the General Assembly or promulgated by administrative rule. This Amendment would stop any new ballot initiatives from being used to regulate the animal industry. A retaliatory move against HSUS-backed petitions.
The coalition would be funded by contributions. Does this mean that our different associations will be contributing to this coalition, as many of the officers are officers of the coalition? That is not right, but since we never had the chance to vote on our officers serving on another board this is probably a done deal. You would think the Cattlemen’s board would be working to reverse the fact we are a net IMPORTER of beef or that the USDA inspection means that at big packing plants they look at the paperwork but not much of the meat. In addition, recalls of meat are on a voluntary basis only, not mandatory or the fact that the consumer has a hard time finding the "Country of Origin Labeling" that is required. The Soybean Association should worry about how Monsanto has sued many of our members out of business for doing what we have done for countless years: "keeping our own seed." All of these Agriculture Associations have problems unique to each type of production. Would it not be better if we all (HSUS, Farm Bureau, MAC, Missouri Ag Alliance) worked with the Department of Agriculture to achieve its goal of getting rid of the bad DOG breeders? In addition, Corporate Agriculture should quit the bad public relations practice of labeling groups extremists or activists. Instead, treat them as Americans exercising their freedom of speech. Many, if not all, are our customers, and they are knowledgeable and deserve to be listened to and deserve us taking time to discuss their concerns. We cannot afford to alienate people because they do not totally agree with our views. Family Farmers welcome the input and the chance to educate others.
Jason McCann, President of the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, in response to declining membership stated that we needed new "like-minded" members. This might give you a clue why membership is in decline. I myself do not know why members who are diverse would not be welcomed unless the board has a personal agenda and not a member-guided strategy. Lily Edwards, an animal scientist at Kansas State University, recently surveyed cattlemen and found 90%+ say, "animals have the right to be treated humanely and ethically." Does this mean the memberships of Ag Associations agree with the HSUS?
The concept of humane treatment of animals has been transformed into the concept of "well-being" which not only includes an animal’s physical welfare but also focuses on its quality of life. HJR 86 and now House Bill 1747 states "the state cannot put undue economic burden on animal agriculture." Both bills are an attempt by Big Ag to stop future state regulations of CAFOs. The Puppy Mill Bill and HJR 86 will probably be on the ballot this fall. Vote for what you think is best for both the state (financially) and the dogs. Watch out for the language on HJR 86. In addition, call your Senator about the language of "undue economic burden" on any bill. It is Big Ag’s attempt to do as they please to the environment, livestock and community, jeopardizing the "well-being" of all.
(Darvin Bentlage is a Southwest Missouri Farmer and Cattleman.)