Bill limiting agricultural inspections passes

State Rep. Kent Haden
By Lianna Kowalke
Missouri News Network

Lawmakers gave final approval Tuesday to a bill that places limits on inspections of agriculture facilities.

Next, the bill will go to the governor.

Bill sponsor Rep. Kent Haden, R-Mexico, said House Bill 574 would protect agricultural facilities against “fishing expeditions’’ from inspectors, according to previous Missourian reporting. Haden also said this bill would decrease biosecurity risks caused by inspectors entering properties without approval.

In previous debates over the legislation, representatives have focused on how this bill will protect Missouri farmers. On Tuesday, concerns were raised about whether the bill could lead to more lax inspections for dog breeders.

“I think that’s the opposite of what we should be doing,” said Rep. Tracy McCreery, D-St. Louis. “As a legislature, we should be doing things that allow transparency and making sure that all the businesses in the state are following equitable state law.”

Haden said the final version of the bill doesn’t exempt dog breeders from any inspections.

The confusion was created because the current version of the bill on the House of Representatives website states that only specifically authorized agencies may inspect facilities used for “production or raising of dogs or other animals not used to produce any food product.”

But one of the amendments to the bill that passed the Senate removes that wording, something Haden stressed.

“They took a dog breeding out of it, so it’s not in the bill,” he said.

The issue of dog breeder inspections is contentious because Missouri has long-reported issues with facilities known as “puppy mills.”

According to a 2020 report by the Humane Society, Missouri has topped the list of states with the most puppy mills and puppy brokers for eight years in a row.

The bill gives sole authority for the inspection of agricultural facilities to the state Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, county sheriff’s departments and “any other federal or Missouri state agency with statutory or regulatory authority.”

It states that no other entity may inspect an agricultural facility “unless requested by the owner.”

Missouri Cattlemen's Association president Patty Wood said the legislation is intended to provide clarity to respective regulatory agencies and to farm and ranch families.

“We have been working alongside Representative Haden for a few years on this legislation, and it is a victory for farm and ranch families to see it cross the finish line,” said Wood. “It is important that rules and regulations are scientifically founded and enforced by experts who understand that science.”

The legislation, which was handled by Sen. Jeanie Riddle (R-10) in the senate, was largely focused on biosecurity. Rep. Haden, a veterinarian, spoke of the recent economic destruction that has occurred in other countries because of disease outbreaks.

MCA executive vice president Mike Deering said an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease would devastate the cattle industry.

“We cannot have individuals or groups with an agenda or ulterior motive conducting inspections in this state,” Deering said. “We have regulatory agencies with experts to do these kinds of inspections.”


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