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Proposition B threatens state's livestock operations

By Susan McCabe

As thousands of Western Farm Show attendees file into the American Royal Complex for the three-day show, many will share a common concern: the fate of animal agriculture in Missouri--an issue raised by the passing of Proposition B in November of last year.

Although Proposition B is aimed at regulating "puppy mills," or dog breeding in Missouri, it's a measure that has the agricultural community on edge, according to Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst. A no-till corn and soybean farmer in Tarkio, Mo., Hurst believes the legislation is the first step by the Humane Society of the United States to restrict all forms of animal agriculture.

"This is the first shot in what promises to be a fairly long war to protect commercial agriculture among full-time farmers," says Hurst. "Most of those people who attend the Western Farm Show are in the crosshairs of the HSUS campaign."

Make no mistake, says Hurst, Missouri Farm Bureau condemns the mistreatment of animals and supports reasonable, proven standards regulating the care of animals. However, Hurst says Proposition B duplicates regulations already on the books for the state's dog breeders and will put good breeders out of business. Missouri Farm Bureau is working to make needed modifications to the law, which doesn't go into effect until the end of 2011. A Missouri House committee is currently reviewing a proposal to overturn Proposition B.

Hurst says many livestock producers fear the animal rights group, with millions of dollars in support from HSUS, will eventually target hog, cattle, dairy and other operations in the future, all in an effort to keep individuals from eating meat. And they'll do it by passing legislation requiring operators to make such costly changes that it will put Missouri's livestock farmers out of business.

"Their strategy is to pick off one segment of the industry at a time," says Hurst, who points out that a similar law affecting Florida hog operations resulted in the closing of those farms. Likewise, Hurst says HSUS efforts successfully "outlawed modern pork production in Arizona with a 65 percent affirmative vote and slaughtered the chicken business in California with 63 percent of the vote."

In an effort to protect Missouri's livestock farmers, Hurst says it's important for producers to band together--to start earlier, work together, raise money for awareness and advocacy and make the moral case for current farming practices.

"One of the new Proposition B regulations is that a breeder cannot have more than 50 female dogs. You can't make a living with 50 dogs," says Hurst. "And the idea of trying to control the size of a business is simply un-American."

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