Travesty was made

Friday, March 9, 2007

of democratic process

Dear Editor:

This was a letter to the senators on the Ag Committee after a hearing on SB 364, which threatens to take away locol control of Confined Animal Feeding Operations. The bill was passed out of committee on party lines in spite of a huge crowd against it.

Dear Senators, I am still in disbelief about the travesty to the democratic process that I witnessed last night at the Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on SB 364. Shame on you. I now have even more understanding at how derailed our rights as citizens in the state of Missouri have become. Indeed, local control will help protect all citizens' rights throughout the state. Last night's farce demonstrated more than ever the need to keep government in the hands of the people.

This hearing was conducted in such a way as to effectively circumvent citizens' rights. The manner in which Chairman Clemens managed the allotted speaking time was obviously biased toward big agriculture money represented by Farm Bureau and others. Every person in support of SB 364, many masquerading as family farmers, was allowed ample time to speak, with most allowed to go over their four minutes.

Real family farmers, some driving hours across Missouri to take part in what they presumed would be a democratic process, were instead turned away. I think about the folks from Roaring River State Park, who drove hours to present a carefully prepared and insightful testimony, only to have to get back in their cars and make the long drive home - not allowed to testify. I think about the man, after working as a hog janitor in a CAFO, now suffering from immune system and breathing problems, sitting quietly in the hall waiting his turn - not allowed to testify.

I think about a real family farmer, living a half mile from the onslaught of a CAFO, who drove his car with over a hundred thousand miles on it, sitting quietly in the hall with his aerial photos of the CAFO on his lap - not allowed to testify. I think about all the others who, for various reasons, cannot accept that you would even consider imposing upon them the injustices of such a senate bill - not allowed to testify.

I think about the manner in which one woman was treated, when she made a noble plea to allow equal speaking time for all those folks. She was scolded and talked to like she was a naughty child. You made the choice not to hear these citizens, thus missing an opportunity to interact with them. Perhaps getting their viewpoints would have helped you make a decision. But perhaps your minds were already made up.

What happened last night was wrong. It appeared to be an obvious and deliberate attempt to circumvent the democratic process. All those folks in that room who wanted to testify against SB 364 represent a fraction of the money that helps back such a bill. But I do hope you keep in mind, that while you did not act like it last night, you are elected officials - elected by the people of the state of Missouri.


Julie Fisher

Columbia, Missouri