JEFFERSON CITY - Displaying "Farm and Rural Values" badges, dozens of small farm owners, county commissioners and other rural citizens visited the capitol Wednesday to lobby against two proposed bills.
Their beef was with Senate Bill 187 and House Bill 376.
The bills would exclude large-scale corporate farms from state regulation and leave them only under federal regulations. They would also limit local authority in health and zoning ordinances. The protestors say that while derregulation may be a boon for big business, it could hurt small family farms.
Rhonda Perry, who works for the Rural Crisis Center in Columbia, organized the press conference which took place on the South steps of the Capitol.
Perry's brothers, Steve Perry and Mike Perry, from Chillocothe, help out on their father's farm after finishing work at Wire Rope and Caterpillar, jobs that they say they had to take to make ends meet.
Rhonda Perry said that large farming corporations like Smithfield and Premium Standard Farms that are vertically integrated and raise hogs from "birth to bacon," can push family farmers out of the market.
Steve Perry said that many farmers have had to go work for large corporations after their farms went under.
"I couldn't let myself work for somebody that destroyed my life. How could you do that," he said.
Rep. Jim Guest (R-King City),who sponsored the house bill, said that he was fighting for the rights of individual famers. He said current regulations make it impossible for growth and expansion.
"This legislation will allow all farmers across any county to compete equally. We are fighting for the rights of the individual livestock farmer to farm within the laws of the state of Missouri without being hampered by overregulation by some individual county," he said.
Rep. Wes Shoemyer (D-Clarence), said that the bill fighting for family farms was "bull."
"I believe that government is best when its closest to the people," Shoemyer said.
He said that another provision of the bill would allow public notification just one day before a permit application is granted. As of now, the public has to be notified before the application for a permit can be requested.
"It's just a bad neighbor policy, a bad neighbor bill," Shoemyer said.