Some Kansas legislators are trying to pass a new law (HB 2502) limiting the rights of county residents to determine if industrialized hog farms and dairies will be allowed in their communities. Current law automatically gives citizens the right to vote on allowing hog factories in their county. For industrial-scale dairies, a petition by 5 percent of residents opposing them is required to bring the issue to vote. HB 2502 would increase the threshold for public vote by requiring petition by 10 percent of residents on both forms of industrial agriculture.
Rep. Tom Moxley, R-Council Grove, evidently understands the long-term destruction of family farms caused by industrial agriculture and is seemingly unmoved. The Topeka Capital-Journal quotes him as saying, “the small-farm model is gone in Kansas. It makes sense to seek business expansion through corporate agriculture.”
Another troubling statement comes from Rep. Larry Powell. He says that allowing citizens to vote on development of industrial-scale hog facilities in their counties constitutes “taking” of personal property interests. But, America has a long history of giving citizens the right to determine how their communities are developed to uphold community values and ensure property rights of others are not infringed. Zoning regulations are just one example. During the hog farm controversy in the late 1990s, southwestern Kansas farmers told me that there were times they could not work their fields when downwind from industrialized hog factories, nor could they count on (depending upon wind direction) the simple right of enjoying the outdoors on their own farms that’s taking personal property interest.
Again quoting the Capital-Journal, J.J. Jones, marketing and trade coordinator at the state agriculture department said that existing law is a barrier. He used the North American Pig Improvement Company (PIC) as an example, claiming PIC wants to build facilities for 50,000 hogs in five years in Kansas. PIC is owned by Genus, among the world’s largest animal genetics corporations with operations in North America, Europe, Africa and beyond. PIC is noted for filing an injunction against a North Carolina farm seeking to prevent the farm from selling PIC-sourced pigs for breeding purposes by claiming the pigs were a trade “secret.” Concentration of breeding genetics, with fewer alternatives for replacement breeding stock for farmers, is recognized as another threat to free-market agriculture by contractually restricting producers from using or selling their animals for breeding purposes.
This is Wall Street versus Main Street. Join Kansas Farmers Union and Kansas Rural Center in actively supporting family farms and rural communities by asking your elected representatives to reject this attempt to take away local control.