Missouri governor vetoes ag bill

Jul 12, 2013

—Nixon vetoes SB 9 ignoring cattle rustling, animal abuse.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon axed legislation that would toughen penalties for cattle rustling and provide a fix to the animal abuse and neglect law. S.B. 9, which was an important bill for Missouri farm and ranch families, fell victim to the governor’s pen last week causing the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association (MCA) to question Nixon’s commitment to Missouri agriculture.

MCA Executive Vice President Mike Deering said the governor turned his back on families providing safe and nutritious beef for a growing global population.

“Governor Nixon has often touted himself as a friend to farmers and ranchers. Our association endorsed the governor and certainly appreciate[s] the many efforts he has made in support of Missouri’s top economic driver, but a veto of S.B. 9 is reason for serious concern,” said Deering.

The animal trespass portion of S.B. 9 was sponsored by Rep. Joe Don McGaugh, R-39. MCA President Chuck Massengill, who is also a veterinarian, says this portion would have provided a much needed correction fix to the current animal abuse and neglect law.

“As the animal abuse and neglect law currently stands, a farmer can receive a hefty fine or even imprisonment because their livestock got out of their confines. It doesn’t matter if the animal is out for 12 hours or 10 minutes,” said Massengill. “Animal abuse should not be taken lightly, but we need to ensure that the law does not make criminals out of farmers who had a couple cows walk over the fence that had been knocked down by a fallen tree or an out-of-control motor vehicle.”

Cattle rustling, which is a constant problem throughout the state and most severe in southwest Missouri, was addressed in S.B. 9 as well. The new language, sponsored by Sen. David Sater, R-29, would have made the penalties for cattle rustling tougher by making the first offense a felony in most cases.

“Cattle rustling is not the same as stealing objects. We are talking about livelihoods being stolen,” said Massengill. “It’s a shame that the governor essentially ignored MCA’s quest to curb this problem in the state.”

Nixon also vetoed ag legislation that would have ended a decades-old state ban on foreign ownership of Missouri farmland. The legislation would have capped foreign ownership at 1 percent.

Nixon said the provision was added to the legislation late in the process.

“Whether, or to what degree, Missouri agricultural land should be foreign owned is an important policy choice for the people of Missouri, a decision that should be made through their elected representatives only after the specific proposal has been sufficiently vetted and openly considered,” Nixon said in a veto message.

Missouri is one of several states that have restricted foreign land ownership since the 1970s. — Traci Eatherton, WLJ Editor