Farming Bill of Rights

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JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri Democratic Party is trying to fight international companies profiting from rural Missouri farming.

The party released its new Farmer's Bill of Rights Monday. The statement includes three rights:

  • Right to fair markets
  • Right to local control of land
  • Right to rural opportunity

"The economic engine of rural Missouri is agriculture," party chair Stephen Webber said. "And right now, the status quo is not working and it's affecting our rural communities."

The party is specifically calling for the state to stop the foreign ownership of farms. A 1978 Missouri law stated no international company could own farmland within the state, but that law was changed in 2013 to allow Smithfield Foods' new owner, Shuanghui International of Hong Kong, to own land.

"The Republican Party is colluding with international conglomerates to extract the wealth that's being created by the workers in rural Missouri and exporting it out of state," Webber said. "We need to stand up and protect the farmers from being exploited by these companies."

Webber said the party will look to get local and state lawmakers to sign the bill of rights. State Representatives Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia, and Martha Stevens, D-Columbia, became the first to sign Monday.

"Growing up in rural Missouri, I've seen what corporate control of the family farm and control of the [agriculture] industry has meant for rural Missouri," Kendrick said. "What we have now means less money being retained in the community and more being shipped out to stockholders and overseas corporations."

Both Webber and Kendrick said the bill will not only help family farms, but also provide financial support for the communities they live in.

"The health of family farm is a leading indicator on the health of a community," Webber said. "When you lose the family farm, you lose local businesses. When you lose businesses, you lose schools, and then you lose people."

Ed Mitchell is a rural Missouri farmer. He said people don't realize the impact farmers have on a community and its economy.

"It doesn't matter what politic you are. The food on the table comes from the farm. And those pigs aren't Democrats and they aren't Republican," he said.

Webber said the bill has not yet received any Republican support.

The Missouri Republican Party released a statement in response this evening, in part saying:

"The Missouri Republican Party has been a long-time defender and friend to our state’s agricultural community,” said chairman Todd Graces. “Unlike the Democrats, we don’t need an unveiling of what we are doing for Missouri agriculture - voters already understand it and have for many years.  Our farmers and ranchers are a large part of what makes our state great, and that community will continue to find an ally in the Missouri Republican Party.”