(My column for this week's Newton County News and KY3/KSPR)
One of the most frustrating things Missouri citizens have had to face the past few years is that the people who should be protecting them from odors and environmental hazards, their elected officials and the state Department of Natural Resources, are the ones who are enabling the top polluters.
During my time at The Carthage Press, I wrote about a man who was given the go-ahead to operate a landfill in Jasper County (thankfully, that never came about) even though he had been convicted of a felony involving the environment.I wrote about numerous situations in which corporate hog farms enveloped areas in odor and damaged the environment, while the DNR claimed that is allegedly was unable to do anything. Not so coincidentally, the man who was in charge of the DNR during much of that time, David Shorr, has since become a lobbyist and lawyer for many of the same polluters he was supposed to be protecting us from.
However, the problem is not limited to the legislature. This past week,bills were passed in the Missouri House and Senate, which would severely limit citizens' rights to hold corporate farming operations accountable for their transgressions.
Sen. Brad Lager, R-Savannah, who sponsored the bill in his chamber, said it was all about jobs. "Nuisance lawsuits" as he termed them were going to run the corporate farmers out of the state and put Missourians on the unemployment line.
Associated Press quotes Lager as saying, "For years and years, the farmers of our state have been able to produce food for our tables,but in recent years, agriculture has come under attack by essentially out-of-state lawyers."
What Lager fails to mention is that his biggest contributor is Smithfield Foods (something which sadly David Lieb, the Associated Press reporter) also failed to mention.
In the month prior to last year's election, Lager received three contributions, totaling $10,000 from Smithfield, $4,000 on Sept. 27, another $4,000 on Oct. 20, and $2,000 five days later.
In its coverage of the bills, Missourinet also neglected to mention the financial contributions Smithfield Foods made to the sponsor of the House bill, Rep. Casey Guernsey, R-Bethany.
The following passage comes from the Missourinet article:
The sponsor, Rep. Casey Guernsey (R-Bethany), acknowledges that he wants to protect PSF (Premium Standard Farms, a subsidiary of Smithfield) and the jobs it creates in his district, but he insists that his bill also protects family farmers from lawsuits filed by city dwellers moving into rural Missouri.
What is not mentioned is that Smithfield Foods has also been the biggest contributor to Guernsey's campaign, giving him $4,000- $2,000 on Oct. 24 and another $2,000 on Oct. 29.
It should be noted that the contributions given to Lager and Guernsey would have been illegal when Missouri had campaign contribution limits. Unless it laundered the money through committees, Smithfield could have only given Guernsey $325 and $675 to Lager.
Obviously, the stench in Jefferson City is not coming from hog farms.