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Missouri Farm Bureau President Garrett Hawkins: Property rights a ‘fundamental question’


Missouri Farm Bureau President Garrett Hawkins said the conflict over property rights was paramount to Missouri’s farmers and landowners, both today and for the future.

He pointed to a recent rally in the state Capitol where various officials and groups backed a legislative effort to curb the ability of projects — namely the Grain Belt Express — from using the power of eminent domain to construct above-ground transmission lines. 

“There’s nothing more fundamental to agriculture and owning land than property rights,” Hawkins said. “When we think about the awesome power of eminent domain that the government can grant, that’s what this is. … There has been a legal component to this, but now we’re to the fundamental question: Should a private, for-profit company — particularly out of state like this one — be given the power of eminent domain for essentially private gain?”

Hawkins appeared on Sunday’s episode of “This Week in Missouri Politics” to discuss the issues impacting Missouri agriculture, from technology and infrastructure to the State Fair and rural internet access. He said he was honored to testify before a congressional subcommittee last week, advocating for greater access to affordable broadband in rural communities. 

“It was an awesome opportunity to talk about the opportunities for broadband on farms,” Hawkins said. “The technology is out there, but until we have broadband or high-speed internet to the farm gate and then deploy it across the farm, we don’t know. … Until we have it in our communities until you have that foundation, that’s what we’re talking about.”

Medicaid expansion

State Sen. Cindy O’Laughlin, state Reps. Maggie Nurrenbern and Wes Rogers, and Missouri Right to Life’s Susan Klein joined this week’s panel to review the issues coming down to the wire in the legislature. O’Laughlin discussed her chamber’s conflict over Medicaid expansion which was not included in the budget passed by the Senate despite attempts on the floor. 

“The legislature has consistently refused to expand Medicaid for several years, and the reason they have done that is it’s kind of like a runaway train going downhill,” O’Laughlin said. “Medicaid has a lot of things about it that we feel need to be reformed. I’m not sure why we haven’t made more progress.”

Nurrenbern argued the issue would lead to a court battle, ultimately passing the responsibility onto the judiciary branch.  

“We’ve seen Republicans do everything they can to drag their feet on this issue; finally it went to the will of the people, and 53 percent of voters voted for it, the governor put it in his budget,” said Nurrenbern. “There’s money here to fund this. Everybody knows it, and once again instead of the legislature taking care of their business we’re going to leave it to the courts, and we’re going to have to turn to the courts to see this finally get done.”

The panel also discussed abortion, COVID-19, and education reform

Watch the full episode of “This Week in Missouri Politics” below, or listen to the podcast version here.