RURAL ROUTES/Margot Ford McMillen

Tea Party Stands forCorporations

I knew, if we all lived long enough, that the Tea Party folks would turn up at our family-farm lobby days and this morning we had our first. Kind of surprising it took so long.

There are Tea Party clubs all over Missouri, including one that meets a couple of times a month in our county seat.

Their mission statement goes like this: “Looking for a few good people who’ll stand up against progresivism (their spelling, not mine) and reclaim this Country as a God fearing, neighbor helping, freedom loving, we the people nation. Where charity is everywhere but never forced and the Constitution is the rule of law.” I keep thinking I’ll get to one of those meetings, just to see who turns up, but the schedule never works out.

But since my farm group, Missouri Rural Crisis Center, is fighting a couple of bills that give rights to corporations at the expense of family farms, it seems that we’d be in agreement with the Tea Party folks that love freedom.

The state Capitol halls were crowded with citizens pro-this and anti-that. There was a huge mob of Christian-looking pro-lifers. The Tea Party guy had a copy of the Missouri Constitution with him, with passages marked with yellow highlighter.

“Excuse me, young lady,” he said, stopping a long-skirted teenager who had strayed from her right-to-life lobby group. “Do you know where the state gets its power?” She shrugged and giggled. Who wouldn’t shrug and giggle when put in a spot like that?

He read, “Section 1. Source of political power—origin, basis and aim of government.—That all political power is vested in and derived from the people; that all government of right originates from the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole.” Each time he said “the people,” he pointed at the page and looked at her. Get it?

In addition to the fellow with his copy of the Missouri Constitution, we had a citizen from the Humane Society of the US (HSUS). We also had quite a few farmers that can’t stand HSUS. But, in Missouri, the HSUS target has been puppy mills and we all love puppies. I had dragged a couple of neighbors along, and, because we’ve worked on family-farm issues for years, we knew most of the people we lobbied with.

A few rich retirees and some farmers living on credit cards. A couple of vegans and the chairman of a four-state region of Angus cattle breeders.

The trick, when you get with a group like that, is to stay on message, but the clever corporates have introduced a half-dozen bills to give themselves more power. So we have a half-dozen to keep straight in our heads and on our flyers.

Senate Bill 187, House Bill 209, House Bill 100, House Joint Resolution 3, House Joint Resolution 17. Altogether, MRCC is dubbing these the “Factory Farm Protection Bills,” but the bottom line is that some of them take away the right to use the courts and some destroy regulations passed by counties to protect their citizens. The bills are all anti-property rights.

If these bills go through, they will be challenged in court, but in the meantime the hog companies can build confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), make life unbearable for neighbors and snap up property at bargain prices.

This would be property that had been in a family for generations. Because my neighborhood had access to the court system and hired a lawyer, we were able to make our CAFO neighbor do the right thing and add environmental safeguards to his stinky lagoon. A fourth-generation Barton County farmer in our group has CAFOs on all sides of his property. How much loss will he suffer when he decides to move, which he has almost decided to do? And, as he’ll tell you, not to another place in Missouri but to a whole other state.

And how much benefit will there be to the CAFOs that made his life unbearable? If they can snap up cheap land, they can make life unbearable for other people and checkerboard the entire state.

So, basically, these laws are giving the advantage to the corporations that are — admit it — not humans.

The only argument the lawmakers can come up with is, “But the hog confinements will leave and take 3,000 jobs with them …” That’s nothing, we say. They stole jobs from thousands of farmers when they herded hogs into confinement buildings.

Here comes that Tea Party guy again, moving on to Section 2. “Promotion of general welfare—natural rights of persons—equality under the law—purpose of government.—That all constitutional government is intended to promote the general welfare of the people . . .

“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and the enjoyment of the gains of their own industry . . . to give security to these things is the principal office of government, and that when government does not confer this security, it fails in its chief design.”

Margot Ford McMillen farms and teaches English at a college in Fulton, Mo. Email:

From The Progressive Populist, May 1, 2011

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