JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Legislation proponents said would increase biosecurity for agricultural facilities took its first step in the Missouri Senate Monday.
HB 547, sponsored by Rep. Kent Haden, would designate the Missouri departments of Agriculture and Natural Resources, local sheriffs and law enforcement, and other federal and state agencies as the only authorities able to inspect agricultural facilities, including facilities raising livestock and animals not for consumption such as cats and dogs. The bill would not apply to St. Louis or charter counties.
Haden’s bill passed out of the House last month.
Haden presented his bill in the Senate Agriculture, Food Production, and Outdoor Resources Committee Monday afternoon, saying it would clarify authority and increase security for farmers.
“Based on my experiences as a veterinarian, I’ve witnessed several things that, to me, were a problem,” Haden said. “Biosecurity and the right to know who’s coming on the place and who has the authority to are important.”
Various groups testified in favor of the bill before the committee, including Missouri Farm Bureau, the Missouri Pork Association, and the Missouri Soybean Association.
“These livestock producers, poultry and pork, they’re some of our largest producers, and biosecurity is very important,” Missouri Soybean Director of Policy Casey Wasser said. “We’ve seen what happens to the industry when something bad happens like African Swine Fever — we lose a lot of business, we lose a lot of money. We want to make sure we’re protecting those facilities from those that shouldn’t be there and protecting the livestock themselves.”
Despite several voices in support, two witnesses testified against the bill; Andy Arnold spoke against the legislation on behalf of animal group Stray Dog Policy. He argued regulations are already in place pertaining to places raising cats and dogs and argued the bill would restrict many non-charter communities from handling inspections.
Bob Baker with the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation went so far as to call the bill unconstitutional.
“This would infringe on the rights of the judiciary concerning who can testify in a trial concerning a neighboring operation,” Baker said. “Under the bill, if someone is legally on neighboring property, and they see a crime where animals are abused, they could not testify on it, and that’s blatantly unconstitutional.”
The committee did not take action on the bill Monday.