For three years, Big Agriculture groups in Missouri and their lobbyists have pushed for a bill to help shield farm records from the public.
This year, they managed to get it passed by both the Missouri House and Senate, with strong approval from the House coming just days before the session ended in May.
But HB 1414
hasn't become law yet — it's still sitting on the desk of Governor Jay Nixon. And the Humane Society of the U.S. is hoping to pressure Nixon to veto the bill before it's too late.
"It's definitely better than where we started with this bill," says Amanda Good, the Missouri State Director for the Humane Society. "Originally, it would have exempted nearly all environmental records from the Sunshine Law."
But what passed is bad enough: A bill that would shield from public scrutiny any governmental records generated by an agricultural concern's "voluntary participation in a program."
That could mean records related to any farm or agricultural company getting grants from the state, for example, since no one is required to apply for grants. "We're not going to be able to see how our tax dollars are being spent," Good says.
Interestingly, Good says, advocacy groups like the Missouri Farm Bureau and the Missouri Cattleman's Association have been unable to point to a problem that the bill is solving. They'll talk about eco-terrorism in other states, or the fear or farmers' social security numbers being released to the public — things that aren't happening here and which new laws aren't needed to address. "They never have any actual examples of anything happening in Missouri," she says.
Those opposed to the bill include the ACLU and the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, which represents small farms. Of the latter group's opposition, says Good, "They know they don't have anything to hide — and that this bill is just protecting factory farms."
Nixon has until mid-July to act on the bill.
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