JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — After a 12-hour debate lasting until Tuesday morning, the Senate eventually perfected legislation blocking local governments from creating rules for agricultural operations stricter than those already imposed at the state level.
SB 391, championed by Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, would prohibit any county commission or health center board from establishing ordinances or other rules on agricultural operations that are more stringent than those already in place at the state level — legislation that would greatly impact concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Proponents argued the legislation would be beneficial to farmers — particularly smaller operations — by cutting red tape and creating more uniform standards.
“Instead of having a hodgepodge of counties with different rules and ordinances, we’d have a statewide policy,” Bernskoetter said.
There are “more people in the world. Farming like we used to farm doesn’t feed the world anymore,” he said.
The debate over environmental protection versus autonomy for local governments began Monday evening and spanned overnight until nearly 7:30 a.m. Tuesday with Democrats largely leading the filibuster.
Those opposed to the legislation harped on the bill stripping away control from local governments.
“Whenever we can, I think we have to defer to the government that’s closest to the people,” Sen. Jill Schupp, a Democrat, said. At one point, she read from a litany of messages she received from Missourians asking her to oppose the legislation.
“The folks in the counties know what they’re dealing with best,” Republican Sen. Mike Cierpiot added, pointing specifically to topography and soil issues.
Around 2 a.m., the debate got particularly interesting when Democratic Sen. Jamilah Nasheed inquired of Republican Sen. Cindy O’Laughlin who wasn’t in the chambers. The Senate stood at ease for some time while Nasheed and other senators considered the rules and whether she would require the Missouri State Highway Patrol to find her Republican colleague. Ultimately, Nasheed rescinded her request.
Before the bill was perfected, Holsman proposed an amendment creating a joint committee — made up of five state representatives, five senators, a Department of Agriculture representative, and a Department of Natural Resources representative — to work together on issues pertaining to the environment and agriculture.
Instead of the controversial Green New Deal proposed at the federal level by progressive lawmakers, Holsman suggested a “Missouri Deal.” He said his amendment, with tweaks by Sen. Ed Emery, was an attempt to “make this [SB 391] as palatable as possible.”
“My amendment will provide a representative, democratic process for people who have complaints in their districts” and give them the ability to take those concerns directly to their representatives who can in turn advocate on their behalf, Holsman said.
But Schupp maintained she didn’t think his amendment was necessary.
“I’m not sure how this moves the ball forward in terms of making sure we don’t have large CAFOs taking over our communities and negatively impacting residents in those communities,” she said.
Schupp, too, was able to attach an amendment early Tuesday morning regarding boundaries for liquified manure from third parties. Her amendment got an initial okay from Bernskoetter before approval from the body.
Even President Donald Trump couldn’t escape the filibuster. During an early exchange with Nasheed, Sen. Scott Sifton argued, “Nothing has been more damaging to Missouri farmers than President Trump.”
Following its perfection, Gov. Mike Parson congratulated the Senate for working through the night on a “big win for Missouri farm [and] ranch families … to meet growing world food demand.”
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a reporter with The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in March 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City. Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S. and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa. She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. Contact Kaitlyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.