The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

April 22, 2013

Darvin Bentlage, guest columnist: Farmers already have rights

GOLDEN CITY, Mo. — I recently attended a state Senate Agriculture Committee hearing in Jefferson City and listened to arguments for and against the “right to farm” constitutional amendments. As I listened, the number of arguments on both sides were equal, even though Sen. Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstown, said he didn’t know why anyone would be against these amendments.

Being a farmer who keeps up with problems in my industry, I found that the arguments against these amendments were much more reasonable than those in support of the amendments. First, it was rather clear that these are amendments to stop, as stated, out-of-state groups from controlling agriculture in our state through ballot initiatives.

One of the first people to speak was Missouri Cattlemen’s Association President Jim McCann. As a former member of the MCA, this seems strange to me. McCann is from Arizona, where the cattle industry is almost totally under the control of JBS, a Brazilian company that owns most of the packing plants and feed lots there.

The next industry leader whom I paid attention to was Dale Ludwig, chief executive officer of the Missouri Soybean Association. He was talking about the increase in imports of soybean products over the past 10 years by the European Union, and how we needed these amendments to meet this demand.

The problem is the EU doesn’t import any U.S. grains, because Monsanto’s GMOs (genetically modified organisms) control our seed industry. Monsanto has a monopoly Bill Gates can only dream of. Misleading statements by leaders in our industry and those sponsoring useless constitutional amendments reveal who funds their election campaigns.

Let’s not forget Don Nikodim, of the Missouri Park Association, and the protect- ion being offered to concentrated animal-feeding operations by these amendments. He said we needed this to enable us to feed the world. Russia recently banned meat products from the United States, because they don’t meet the standards for antibiotic levels set forth by the Codex Alimentarius Commission. So, we sure aren’t feeding Russians meat.

Let’s not forget the types of production that these amendments are meant to protect. Monsanto, which has sued farmers and independent seed cleaners over patent infringement, has forced many people out of the agriculture business. The consolidation and corporate control in the hog industry has dwindled hog producers, because there is no market to sell their product unless they can find an auction barn where there is only one bidder. Take it or leave it price. Corporate control of production has blocked us from export markets costing all farmers billions of dollars. Cattlemen should take note that our industry can be next. When you take your cattle to the stockyards and only two or three bidders are trying to buy your cattle, you may think it’s fair, but if there is only one end user for your product and the bidders are in collusion with that user, you may be lucky to cover your cost of production.

The Farm Bureau (which was formed in Chicago, not Missouri) has offices in most states. It tells its members that livestock farming will cease because the Humane Society supports these amendments. Farm Bureau is a lobby group that goes where the money is — corporate production, not family farmers or consumers. More farmers have left farming because of farm consolidation and corporate control of our industry than have stopped raising livestock because of Human Society interference.

I have never needed this protection in 40 years of farming. I support all family farmers, big and small. I listen to my customers and respect their views whether they are a meat eater or a vegan — it’s their choice, and it all comes from a farmer. Consumers who vote in support of family farms by purchasing the products they prefer are the best example of “right to farm.” We don’t need to waste tax dollars on a vote to support corporate agriculture forever.

Darvin Bentlage is a family farmer and rancher. He lives in Golden City.

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