JEFFERSON CITY - The continuing stench and waste from corporate hog plants in northern Missouri has brought corporate farming itself under the spotlight for the 1996 legislative session.
At least that's the goal of agriculture leaders in Missouri's legislature who are proposing stricter laws on corporate farming.
Rep. Gary Wiggins, D-New Cambria, who serves on the House's Agriculture Committee, said a bill will be proposed to regulate animal waste, especially that which is generated from large corporate farms.
"We've had seven animal waste spills in the last six months," he said. "Everyone's concerned, and I think rightly so."
Sen. Larry Rohrbach, R-California, serves on the Senate's Agriculture Committee. He expects to see legislation on animal waste disposal and corporate farming that will deal with environmental issues, as well as the odors the huge farms create.
"Our difficulty will be sorting out whether our motives have to do with environmental concerns, or whether we would just prefer independent farmers instead of corporate farms," he said. "I hate to see independent farming go by the wayside."
Rep. Jim Kreider, D-Nixa, is vice chairman of the House Agriculture-business Committee. His committee may introduce legislation that results in stricter regulations for corporate farms, which he said is directly related to the hog farm spills in northern Missouri earlier this year.
"We tried to get the government out of corporate farming," he said, "and basically, the (corporate) farms failed the test."
In addition to tighter restrictions on corporate farms, rural lawmakers also are preparing legislation to assist the smaller farms.
New legislation regarding smaller farm co-ops will be geared toward assisting independent farmers, Rohrbach said, "so small farms can do some of the same things as corporate co-ops."
This new legislation could include reducing the number of farmers who can form a co-op. Sally Oxenhandler, spokesperson for the state's Agriculture Department, said the smaller numbers would "give independent farmers more latitude in marketing and production efforts."
But Sen. Dave Klarich, R-St. Louis County, proposes a more direct approach to assisting independent farmers. "The easiest thing we can do is relieve some of the regulatory measures under which they must live," Klarich said. "There are different ways to assist small farms other than direct financial subsidy."