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Democrats pushing for bill to ban foreign ownership of Missouri farmland

Bayer says glyphosate is a key tool for farmers as they try to control weeds and produce enough corn and other crops to help feed the world.
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Supporters of family farms in Missouri are hoping that a bill sponsored by Representative Martha Stevens would restore a ban on foreign corporations owning farmland in Missouri.

A bill in the Missouri House would bring back a ban on foreign ownership of Missouri farmland.

The ban was lifted by the Missouri General Assembly in 2013, allowing foreign ownership of up to one percent of farmland in the state. But Stephen Webber, the chair of the Missouri Democratic Party, said lifting the ban has given foreign corporations too much control in Missouri’s agriculture industry.

“They’ve got the ability to bully small family farmers [and] to manipulate prices and policies,” Webber said.

The bill is sponsored by Missouri Rep. Martha Stevens, D-Columbia, and has support from Family Farm Action. The group sent letters to each member of the Missouri state house this week. Policy Director Jake Davis said an aging farming population and the shrinking number of agriculture and food corporations is creating challenges for farmers.

“As we allow things like foreign ownership and the consolidation of the farm market, the further that these entities and the ownership of this land gets away from those rural communities, the less focus we have on those traditional family farm values,” Davis said.

But those who oppose the bill believe that if the ban is reversed it could hurt the state’s economy by restricting foreign companies that want to invest in rural parts of the state.

Don Nikodim, the executive director of the Missouri Pork Association, said restoring the ban could affect the state’s economy.

“If outside entities are willing to put their money here and provide that resource base so that we can employ more and more people in rural communities, then that seems to [make] a lot of sense,” Nikodim said.

According to Nikodim, Smithfield Foods provides about 3,000 jobs in Missouri that could be in jeopardy if the ban is reversed.

A public hearing on the bill was held this week in front the House Economic Development Committee.

Follow Marissanne on Twitter: @Marissanne2011

Marissanne is the afternoon newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio.

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