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McCaskill Fights For Family Farms

Location: St. Louis, MO

McCaskill Fights For Family Farms

July 07, 2006

McCaskill Calls for Local Control, Fair Competition and Voluntary Animal I.D. in Agriculture Tour
Local Farmers and Ranchers Talk About Need for Better Representation in 2007 Farm Bill

ST. LOUIS -- U.S. Senate Candidate Claire McCaskill is making stops in St. Joseph, Maryville, Kirksville, Palmyra, Ashland, Carl Junction, and Willard on Thursday and Friday to discuss her plan to strengthen family farms and rural economies. Addressing local crowds, including independent farmers and ranchers, McCaskill is talking about the need for more local control and more open and competitive markets. She also aggressively spoke out against a mandatory national animal identification program.

"Missouri farmers have been working for centuries on America's farms and ranches to feed the innovative spirit that drives this great nation," McCaskill said. "But, as factory farms continue to overproduce in order to undercut at market, the way of life of the independent farm is threatened. I promise to be on the side of Missouri family farms and ranchers, fighting for local control and making agriculture markets fairer so they have tools to compete."

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) are local factory farms with thousands of livestock confined and fed with no grazing for 45 days or more in a year. The growth of these large operations has effectively led to a severe decrease in the number of small independent producers. In fact, more than 90% of hog farms in Missouri have closed since 1985.

According to the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, Missouri's current law says that "an industrial livestock operation that generates as much waste as the city of St. Louis can be located within 3,000 feet of a residence in your county." With 451 CAFO's in Missouri, local property values are decreasing by as much as 50% in some areas and local waterways are being polluted as animal waste is dumped into our lakes and streams without penalty. Furthermore, the federal government has provided increased subsidies to enable CAFO's to grow.

"CAFO's have the potential to destroy local economies, pollute our waterways and put local ranches that have been in families for generations out of business," McCaskill said. "I support local control and oversight of CAFO's because it should be up to the local residents to decide if these operations are right for their communities. And I will fight to end taxpayer subsidies to CAFO's."

The National Animal Identification System (NAIS) is a program that would require farmers to participate in a tracking system for most livestock species, including cattle, bison, deer, elk, llamas, alpacas, horses, donkeys, mules, goats, sheep, swine, all poultry species, and even some fish species, under the heading of aquaculture, by 2009. McCaskill believes the mandatory NAIS program is not warranted at this time.

McCaskill says that any health, safety or international trade benefits that would be gained by mandating NAIS is far outweighed by the financial and civil liberties burden the mandate would place on Missouri's family farms and small producers. If they choose to do so, farmers should be allowed to participate in the current voluntary program. However, a mandatory NAIS would only accelerate the current trend of livestock consolidation and imposes an unfair tax on small farmers.

"A mandatory animal I.D. program is unnecessary and would be an incredible financial burden on our local farmers and independent producers," McCaskill said. "First and foremost, the USDA needs to be held accountable. There needs to be full disclosure and transparency regarding the 2009 mandate of this program."

Missouri's ranchers and farmers are not able to get a fair price for their livestock because of the unfair concentration in the market. McCaskill believes there is a need to restore open and competitive markets to ensure our independent producers can compete on a level playing field with the big packers. McCaskill is committing to fight for stricter enforcement of existing antitrust laws, reform captive supply contracts, including a ban on packer ownership of livestock and call for increased transparency and accountability in agriculture contracts. McCaskill also says she supports USDA finally instituting Country-of-Origin Labeling as called for under the 2002 Farm Bill.

"We know where our T-shirts are made. We know where our shoes are manufactured. Why should it be any different when it comes to knowing where our beef comes from," McCaskill said. "Country-of-Origin Labeling was included in the 2002 Farm Bill but has yet to be implemented. In the next Farm Bill we need to finally implement the Country-of-Origin Labeling program."

The next farm bill in 2007 represents a pivotal opportunity for Missouri's farmers. McCaskill is calling for a farm bill that will help family farmers and rural communities, instead of serving to subsidize cheap commodities and corporate agribusinesses. McCaskill said that she will fight to promote fair prices and open competition that rewards the family farmers who are the best stewards of the land in the 2007 farm bill. She will work to strengthen agriculture co-ops, promote more direct-to-marketing opportunities for farmers and expand conservation programs.

"Growing up in rural Missouri, I understand that sometimes what big corporate agriculture wants in Washington hurts our family farmers and independent producers. In next years Farm Bill I won't be in their pocket -- I'll be looking after yours, Missouri's family farmers," McCaskill said.

With current trade policies such as NAFTA and CAFTA threatening the manufacturing and agriculture industries, McCaskill is talking about her commitment to fair trade so that farmers' rights are not sacrificed to trade negotiators. McCaskill said that trade agreements need to raise the labor and environmental standards of other nations, instead of serving as an avenue for cheaper labor and lax requirements for businesses.

McCaskill is also expressing her continued commitment to investing in biofuels and other energy sources as a means of helping to make America more energy independent. McCaskill once again expressed her frustration over last year's Energy Bill, which gave the vast majority of $14 billion in tax breaks and subsidies to big energy companies.

"Last year's Energy Bill gave the steak dinner of funding to the Big Oil companies in left biofuels, ethanol and renewable energy research with the saltine crackers. That's no way to move our country toward energy independence," McCaskill said.

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