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Dueling philosophies between Greitens and Democrats on Missouri’s agriculture industry

Gov. Eric Greitens sits down for an interview with St. Louis Public Radio in downtown St. Louis on July 17, 2017.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio



Gov. Eric Greitens is taking his smaller-government message to Missouri’s agriculture industry, ahead of the 2018 legislative session that begins next month.

The first-year Republican governor told Missouri Farm Bureau members at their annual gathering this week that his administration is poised to roll back “tens of thousands” of regulations that affect farmers, ranchers and agribusiness.


“Missouri farmers and ranchers, the men and women who are running agribusinesses – we can meet these challenges for the world, but we need to make sure that our farmers can farm and we got to get government off of their back,” he said.


Greitens also blamed Missouri’s legal environment for harming agriculture and rural Missouri.


“We’d heard from people all over the state that it’s simply too easy for our farmers, ranchers, and small business owners to get sued,” he said. “We got more tort reform passed in the state of Missouri than anywhere else in the country; we took on massive trial lawyers because we want our farmers and our ranchers to be able to farm.”


Democrats, meanwhile, say Greitens’ policies would benefit international corporations over locally-owned family farms.


A group, led by Democratic Party Chairman Stephen Webber, has been touring the state this week, touting a “Farmer’s Bill of Rights.” Its main goals include stopping foreign ownership of farmland, fighting environmental deregulation, and promoting rural business growth.


“As big corporations suck more money from communities and sent it to the coasts and overseas, it meant fewer opportunities existed for all in my community and other communities like mine,” Rep. Kip Kendrick, who lives in Columbia, but grew up in rural Monroe County, said during a tour stop Monday in Jefferson City. “Downtown businesses shuttered, communities offered fewer services and fell behind on infrastructure projects as more people were out of work, and the tax base shrank. Schools consolidated or they continued to move to a four-day school week, hospitals have been closing, and doctors are moving out of the small towns.”


Rep. Martha Stevens, also from Columbia, said corporate interests are pushing Republicans to take away the ability of local governments to pass environmental ordinances that block large animal feeding operations, commonly known as CAFO’s.


“Last year, I watched attempt after attempt to attack the rights of local government when it came to regulating CAFO’s,” she said. “Local control is vital to executing the values (and) voices of local rural communities.”


The legislature's 2018 regular session begins Jan. 3.


Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:@MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.