The 100th session of the Missouri Assembly ended with the Republican-controlled House joining the Republican-controlled Senate to grant industrial, corporate and foreign owned factory farm investors freedom to indiscriminately ruin Missouri residents’ lives wherever they live. Imagine waking up to greet a beautiful sunny day to the stench of 17,499 hogs just 2,000 feet from your door, less than half a mile. Just imagining the stench and the flies makes me gasp.
When I was young (1960s-70s), my parents, like many Cedar County farmers, raised a few hogs, around 10 at a time. They rooted around a couple hundred yards from the house. The odor from their manure mingled with that of our few dairy cows and a couple hundred, free range egg-laying chickens. Our polled Shorthorn beef herd grazed in the surrounding pastures; I don’t remember smelling their manure which composted in place. Though sometimes, we noticed the stench from our small number of hogs, cows, chickens, and sheep, especially after Daddy spread manure from the barns on Mama’s vegetable garden and the nearby fields, it was never overwhelming; it was just part of farm life. I didn’t know our family farm “smelled like a farm” until I came home from college after being away for several weeks. It smelled like manure! I couldn’t believe it! My beloved farm stunk!
Last week, our Cedar County elected representatives — all Republicans, unanimously decided without even consulting our locally elected Republican Cedar County commissioners, we would be well-served by living next door to some industrial, corporate or even foreign-owned factory farm with virtually no regulation, wherever they decided to buy land and build their meat factory. During the two-and-a-half-hour House debate on SB 391, Democrat Representative Doug Beck forced a roll call vote on an amendment to stop foreign corporate ownership of Missouri farmland. Our three county representatives voted for foreign corporations to own and control more Missouri farmland; only five rural representatives voted no.
In 2013, our Missouri legislature granted foreign corporations the legal right to own up to 1% of Missouri farmland (289,000 acres). One month later, Chinese corporation Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd., now Shuanghui Group, bought Smithfield Foods which controls over 25% of U.S. pork and owns over 40,000 acres of Missouri farmland. They own Premium Standard Farms in northern Missouri. As of 2017, foreign corporations purchased 44,070 acres, applied to the 1% cap. Our Republican legislators cordially invite foreign corporations to purchase the remaining 244,930 acres of Missouri farmland. Maybe Shuanghui Group or Brazilian JBS, the world’s largest meatpacker, will buy 400 acres close to your Cedar County property or Stockton Lake.
If you don’t want to live with an unlimited number of hogs, cattle, or chickens just a football field’s length from your home, tell Gov. Parson now, and plan to attend an educational forum in early June at the Courthouse. People long involved in this issue will explain how we got here and the implications for our lives. Watch this space for more information.
Cheryl Y. Marcum
Cedar County native and landowner