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A public hearing without the public. That’s the best kind, if you have a particularly (pardon the pun) stinky bill. And HB 209, which would limit the rights of Missouri family farmers, landowners and communities to get redress in the courts against CAFOs, reeks. It smells of Republicans doing exactly what government is not supposed to do–protect the wealthy and powerful, in this case Big Ag, against legitimate lawsuits from the rest of the citizenry.

The public hearing that wasn’t took place on blizzard day, last Tuesday. While hundreds of concerned citizens who’d have showed up for the hearing were hunkered down in their homes during the onslaught of ice and as much as 18 inches of snow, the House Agri-business Committee met and passed HB 209 out of committee. This bill would prevent property owners who sue CAFOs from collecting anything more than “fair market value” for any devaluation of their property. First off, once a CAFO invades a neighborhood, nobody knows anymore what “fair market value” is, since property values tend to shit a brick once one is even threatened, much less actually installed. Property owners in the historic village of Arrow Rock, who tried to prevent a CAFO from being built, were advised to get an assessment of their property immediately. It was probably already devalued, though, simply because a CAFO was seeking a license for that area.

But beyond the issue of what property is worth are other issues. What’s it worth if a farmer whose family has been on the land for six generations has to sell because the air is so bad that his family can’t go outside and enjoy picnics anymore? Or because one or more family members now have severe asthma? What’s that worth? Nothing, according to this bill. People will not be allowed to sue over health impairment or quality of life issues.

Once again, Republicans are selling their souls to wealthy corporations who can easily afford to defend themselves. Once again Republicans are selling out ordinary people, who have to risk everything they own if they take one of these monoliths to court. So if HB 209 passes, the possible return for taking that kind of risk would be a pittance. This bill is a top priority for the Farm Bureau and for Speaker Tilley this session. Premium Standard neither needs nor deserves that kind of favoritism.

Now. Before your blood returns to normal temp. You can easily e-mail your rep to vote no on this travesty. Just click here, then click on “No Special Favors for Factory Farms” and fill in your info. Every representative, even Democrats but especially Republicans, needs to hear from us on this one.