Small Farms, Big Battle

1 decade 10 months 4 weeks ago Tuesday, June 26 2007 Jun 26, 2007 Tuesday, June 26, 2007 5:37:25 PM CDT June 26, 2007 in News

Brinker Farms achieved the American dream.

"If you start as a very small family farm, which we did 30 years ago, and built our business up, in most parts of our society that's looked upon as a good thing, in America, that you built your business," said Ken Brinker, farmer.

Brinker operates a large hog farm with a couple hundred acres of corn near Auxvasse. Every county in the state operates under a set of state standards for health and safety. Only 16 counties have standards stricter than the state, but many family farm groups -- like patchwork family farms -- believe state ordinances help corporate farms rather than family farms.

"They [family farms] really have not proven that they are the future of agriculture by a far stretch," said Rhonda Perry, farmer/director.

The other option is local control by county commissioners, but Brinker doesn't think that is the best option.

"It'd be much easier for the state to regulate where the operations can go. A much more uniform body of evaluators can be assembled that would judge each side based on its merit rather than emotion," said Brinker.

Just last spring, the Senate killed a bill switching all farm health ordinances to state control. That was a victory for family farms.

"I think the basic bottom line is it's an extremely radical notion to take local control and take away property rights and it just doesn't fly in rural Missouri, it didn't fly this year and I don't think it's going to fly next year," said Perry.

Still the local versus state battle rages and the public is left to wonder if the local environment is properly protected.

The state regulates Brinker's large hog farm under the classification of animal feeding operations -- rules designed to protect water resources from animal waste. Out of Missouri's 105,000 farming operations, fewer than one half of one percent are regulated by the state.

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