Darvin Bentlage

Darvin Bentlage

Missouri has been under corporate rule for too long. I use the word “rule” instead of “represented by” because the Legislature has used its control to benefit corporate interests over the private property rights of Missouri residents, ignoring the Missouri state motto, “Let the welfare of the people be the supreme law.”

Here are a few examples of many.

Our corporate-controlled Legislature limited the constitutional rights of farmers and landowners to protect our property rights, property values and quality of life through the court system from absentee and foreign-controlled factory farms.

Our corporate-controlled Legislature opened Missouri farmland to be bought and controlled by foreign corporations. Two weeks later, China purchased Smithfield Foods along with 40,000 acres of Missouri farmland.

Our corporate-controlled Legislature helped pass the so-called “Right to Farm” amendment, which puts the interests of corporate industrial factory farms over the interests of Missouri’s independent family farmers.

After a Pipestone Systems concentrated animal feeding opration permit was declined by the Missouri Clean Water Commission because the operation was aiming to build a 7,336-hog CAFO in a 100-year flood zone, our corporate-controlled Legislature went to work to eliminate the requirement that the public be represented on the Clean Water Commission. The members of the Clean Water Commission who denied the CAFO permit were kicked off, corporate agriculture advocates were installed and the CAFO was approved.

And in May of this year, the Clean Water Commission changed the definition of groundwater to exclude subsurface (perched) groundwater for CAFOs only, endangering the clean water that rural Missourians and family farm livestock producers like me rely on.

In 2018, Missouri residents voted for Clean Missouri, an ethics law limiting lobbyists’ influence, enacting campaign finance reform and stopping gerrymandering. However, in 2019 our corporate-controlled Legislature put a referendum on the ballot under the pretense that it was lowering lobbyist gifts and campaign contributions, when the real purpose was to reinstate gerrymandering.

Our corporate-controlled Legislature passed Senate Bill 391, attempting to take local control away from counties that had health ordinances regulating the handling and dispersal of corporate factory farm waste and protecting corporate interests at the expense of the people and our water yet again.

In 2020, Missouri residents voted to pass a constitutional amendment to expand Medicaid in our state.

This brought Missouri in line with 38 other states that had been already benefiting from Medicaid expansion, giving limited-income residents access to health care and bringing billions of our federal tax dollars back to these states, with 90% of the cost paid by the federal taxes already collected.

This money would help Missouri’s rural hospitals stay open and create thousands of jobs. For example, since 2014, Missouri has lost nine rural hospitals and thousands of health care jobs that would have been saved by Medicaid expansion.

However, this year our-corporate controlled Legislature refused to put Medicaid expansion in the budget, starting a costly legal battle to protect our constitutional right to Medicaid expansion. Without Medicaid expansion, family farmers and rural communities will pay through increased property taxes to offset costs or possibly through our local hospitals closing, costing local jobs and forcing rural residents to drive farther for health services. Not to mention, many family farmers who have suffered from eight years of low income would benefit directly from Medicaid expansion.

We do not need a corporate-controlled Legislature.

We need a Legislature that respects the will and vote of the people.

We deserve a Legislature that truly represents Missourians and the welfare of the people.

Darvin Bentlage is a Barton County farmer.

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