If you haven't called or emailed the Governor's office, don't wait any longer!
If you have called or emailed him, please do it again! And ask your friends and family to do the same.
Below is the letter the Sierra Club and 4 other environmental organizations signed, urging the Governor's veto.
At this point, if you call the Governor's office, you probably won't have to verbalize any specific reasons for a veto, but some of them -- explained in the letter below -- include:
The Governor has until Tuesday (5-3-11) before he must decide whether to veto or sign the bill. HOWEVER, he might not wait that long to decide, so please call as soon as you are able.
- threats to public health, including neighbors and employees who work in factory farms (confined animal feeding operations or CAFOs)
- threats to water quality, including surface water and ground water
- inadequate protection from factory farms for rural residents under current state law, which this bill will make even more inadequate
- negative impact of CAFOs on rural economies
Phone # for the Governor's office: (573) 751-3222.
If you prefer to email him, here is the url: http://governor.mo.gov/
Legislative Chair, MO Chapter, Sierra Club
April 20, 2011
The Honorable Jeremiah “Jay” Nixon
Governor, State of Missouri
Missouri Capitol Building
Jefferson City, MO 65102
Dear Governor Nixon:
The undersigned Missouri environmental organizations and their members strongly urge you to veto House Bill 209, a bill that severely limits the ability of rural Missourians to use the courts to redress pollution-related damages from industrial farming operations. If enacted into law, this measure would constitute a raw deal for the economic well being of rural communities, a raw deal for the public health of all Missourians, a raw deal for rural property owners, and a raw deal for our natural environment.
At its most basic, HB 209 enables out-of-state owners of Concentrated Animal Feeding
Operations (CAFOs) to increase their profits at the expense of protecting rural Missouri citizens. It grants unnecessary and unwarranted favors to CAFOs – unnecessary because the bill seeks to redress problems that don’t exist. There are few instances of repeated lawsuits against CAFOs. Indeed, repeat lawsuits only result when the polluting operations don’t abate their toxic emissions. (Abatement is feasible at reasonable cost.) In fact, the risk of lawsuits against CAFOs is nonexistent when these farms don’t pollute in the first place.
So why sign into law a bill that removes incentives for factory farms to clean up their act and become better neighbors, and which actually protects their ability to continue their foul practices?
Threats to Public Health: There is a vast body of scientific literature documenting the threats to public health and the environment stemming from the heavy concentrations of animal wastes that leak from factory farms. The threats range from drinking water contamination in local wells, including arsenic, bacteria and nitrates; pathogenic contamination of surface waters; antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the air, water, and soil, as well as in consumer meat products; and hydrogen sulfide and ammonia emissions (a concern for workers, children and elderly residents who live in close proximity to CAFOs). The U.S. Centers for Disease Control, University of Iowa, and Iowa State agree that CAFO air emissions constitute a hazard to public health and worker health, finding increased nausea, headaches, brain damage, vomiting or diarrhea and even life-threatening pulmonary edema. In addition to the gases hydrogen sulfide (a neurotoxin) and ammonia (a respiratory irritant), airborne manure particles from CAFOs have been shown to carry bacteria.
Threats to Water Quality: This is not merely a "rural issue," but one that affects all
Missourians. Toxic emissions of nutrients, fertilizers and pathogens from corporate agribusiness find their way into countless local rivers, streams and lakes, jeopardizing our drinking water, river quality and wildlife. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), pollution from agriculture contributes to poor water quality in more than 100,000 miles of rivers and streams in the United States, along with 2,500 square miles of lakes and 2,900 square miles of estuaries. These waters are so polluted that they are unsafe for fishing, swimming, or the maintenance of healthy populations of wildlife. (These figures greatly understate the impact of agribusiness pollution on America’s waterways, since they include only waterways whose quality has been assessed by state governments and those for which a cause of pollution was listed.)
Corporate Agriculture Needs Strong Regulatory Oversight: Many would like to believe that
local, state and federal laws can address many of these concerns, but that’s hardly the case. Our state laws regulating factory farms are meager, apply mostly to the largest (Class I) CAFOs, and are inconsistently enforced. Indeed, many CAFOs operate "under the radar" as Class II operations, meaning they escape the scrutiny of the Department of Natural Resources. Many of these are built right on stream banks or other inappropriate locations because DNR has no authority over them. All the more reason why we don’t need further de-regulation of these
HB 209 is Bad for Missouri’s Economy: If the environmental and health effects of CAFOs
aren’t enough reason not to grant them special favors, an equally compelling argument is the damage that CAFOs wreak on the economic viability of rural Missouri communities. CAFOs are a major factor behind the dissolution of small rural communities.
Take hog farming, for example. Hogs once provided a healthy economic base for farm and rural economies when the animals were owned by large numbers of independent producers who sold their animals in competitive open markets. Revenue for these farm families in turn fueled local economies in the form of feed mills, small packing plant and other agricultural support businesses, providing a diversified tax base to fund schools, roads, government services, etc. But the increasing concentration of hog farming – owned by just a few national corporations – has bled Missouri’s rural communities and has shuttered numerous small businesses. The profits are now leaving our state, rather than staying here in our rural communities.
Nor are CAFOs a source of good jobs for Missourians. In Missouri, the number of hog farmers, for example, has dropped from 23,000 in 1985 to 3,000 in 2007 – an 87% decline. A Missouri study found that corporate hog contract operations create a net loss of employment. While creating 9 jobs for every 12,000 hogs produced, corporate contract operations displace 28 jobs.
As to HB 209 specifically, it will greatly weaken the property values of Missourians who have the misfortune to own land, homes and businesses down-wind and down-stream from CAFOs. A study by the University of Missouri found that an average vacant parcel within three miles of a CAFO in Missouri lost about 6.6% of its value, but a parcel with a house on it within a tenth of a mile of a CAFO lost 88% of its value. If HB 209 becomes law, it will only serve to accelerate this diminished marketability and reduced use of property that borders CAFOs. We’re sure you agree that we should be taking steps to protect the property rights of rural landowners, Governor, not undermine them. There is a growing trend in Missouri of producing fruits, vegetables and meats for local and regional consumption, but farmers will be uneasy about such investments if a CAFO can move in nearby and pollute the air.
The irony in all of this is that Smithfield Foods (owner of Premium Standard Farms) doesn’t really need special favors like HB 209. And it certainly won’t pull up stakes and leave Missouri if this bill doesn’t become law. Smithfield is the world’s largest pork producer; it posted record profits in the last fiscal quarter. Large-scale agribusiness (and Smithfield Foods in particular) is among the nation's most powerful special interest lobbies. Smithfield spent $6.7 million on federal lobbying from 2005-2010, supported 17 lobbyists in Washington, D.C., and gave $1,256,100 to Congressional candidates. It also supported members of the Missouri legislature with campaign contributions. So why sign into law a bill that further rewards this job- killing, economy-harming industry when it hardly needs our help?
In the end, Governor, HB 209 is a politically motivated piece of legislation that gives preference to out-of-state interests at the expense of Missouri citizens. We urge you to do the right thing on behalf of all Missourians: please veto HB 209. Thank you.
Liz Forrestal, Executive Director Missouri Votes Conservation
Jim Turner, Chair Missouri Sierra Club
Kat Logan Smith, Executive Director, Missouri Coalition for the Environment
Ted Mathys, Advocate, Environment Missouri
Tony Robyn, Executive Director, Audubon Missouri
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Check out our Listserv Lists support site for more information: http://www.sierraclub.org/
To view the Sierra Club List Terms & Conditions, see: http://www.sierraclub.org/
See also: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWt9Ex1Mlo8