Opinion: A Missouri value we can all agree on


Joe Maxwell has weighed in on Missouri values and found large swaths of rural Missouri lacking. Mr. Maxwell is an accomplished and experienced lawyer and advocate, so he surely knows exactly what it is he is saying, and what he is saying isn’t very nice.

Mr. Maxwell accuses his opponents, the vast majority of Missouri farmers, of not respecting their land, their animals, or their neighbors. In other words, of being extraordinarily bad people. This is a serious charge, one made without evidence of any kind. Where are these bad actors? They surely number in the tens of thousands, if the size of the farm organizations who find themselves in disagreement with Mr. Maxwell are any indication.

To hear Mr. Maxwell tell the story, there is a bright moral line dividing Missouri agriculture, one that he and the Missouri Rural Crisis Center get to draw. Interestingly enough, we’ve been running an experiment on both sides of that line for a while now in Missouri, with a patchwork of regulations differing from county to county.

So, the benefits of Mr. Maxwell’s world should be plainly evident for all to see. Are the counties with County Health Ordinances in a better place than the rest of Missouri? Is their air cleaner, their water purer, their unemployment level less and their property values higher? Are their churches full on Sunday morning while the more benighted counties suffer from a lack of moral values? Are small farms thriving while large commercial operations move elsewhere? Good values should surely result in good things that can be measured. I’d challenge the Missouri Rural Crisis Center and Mr. Maxwell to trumpet their successes and point out the environmental, economic and social benefits to their values.

Of course they won’t. Senate Bill 391 will make the regulation of agriculture across our state better, and will have the essential Missouri value of fairness, treating all Missouri farmers equally. That’s a Missouri value we can all agree on.

Oh, and by the way, I’m sure I speak for the Missouri Cattlemen and the other farm organizations in the state when I say that we don’t question the values of our opponents on this issue. We just disagree, and that’s what politics are for. Mr. Maxwell pollutes the political conversation in this state more than any hog farmer does the physical environment, and we all lose when charges like his take the place of reasoned debate.