Gov. Mike Parson signed legislation Thursday limiting who can inspect certain agricultural production facilities around the state of Missouri.
House Bill 573, introduced by state Rep. Kent Haden, R-Mexico, grants exclusive inspection authority of facilities and grounds producing eggs, milk or dairy, or raising livestock or poultry, to the Missouri Department of Agriculture, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, county sheriffs, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and other federal or state agencies with statutory or regulatory authority over those products and animals.
The legislation also notes testimony or evidence regarding the conditions or practices at farms and production facilities will not be admissible in criminal prosecution unless provided by one of the agencies with inspection authority, individuals authorized to be on the grounds by the owner, individuals with a search warrant for the grounds, or individuals who witness an event or conditions from public or neighboring areas.
This was the third time Haden introduced the bill. The past two times the bill passed through the House but was stuck in the Senate.
The bill amends chapter 261 of Missouri's statutes and became law Thursday.
Document: Missouri House Bill 574View
Parson signed the bill ceremoniously Thursday in Trenton, along with SCR 7.
"I am happy to sign these two pieces of legislation into law today, and I want to give a special thank you to Sen. Dan Hegeman, Rep. Rusty Black, Sen. Jeanie Riddle and Rep. Kent Haden for their respective work on these bills," Parson said. "SCR 7 takes a critical step toward ensuring Missourians in the North Central region will always have a clean, quality, and sustainable source of water, and HB 574 protects producers and supports Missouri's agriculture industry."
SCR 7 expresses the Legislature's support for the $24 million in state funding for the 2,300-acre East Locust Creek Reservoir project in Sullivan County.
Haden said HB 573 is meant to provide clarity to livestock producers about who has the ability to perform inspections and who doesn't.
"There's a lot of groups, particularly animal welfare groups, who would like to be in these facilities, not to the benefit of the people that own them, certainly, but to find things that they think are wrong," Haden said.
In addition to private ownership concerns, Haden said, the bill works to address biosecurity risks. Biosecurity refers to preventive measures that keep disease or pests away from livestock or farm facilities.
Haden said the risk of breaking biosecurity increases when more people visit the livestock area, as they could carry and transmit diseases unintentionally.
Haden said HB 574 was a priority for numerous agricultural groups, including the Missouri Cattlemen's Association, the Missouri Pork Producers Association and the Missouri Farm Bureau. These groups, Haden said, see biosecurity as a risk they want to reduce as much as possible.
Animal disease, like avian influenza in the poultry industry about five years ago, has reduced meat production in the state before.
"The biosecurity in all of livestock facilities, including cattle, hogs, even horses, has become much much more important than it ever has in the past," Haden said. "This bill protects that biosecurity by saying here's who the people are who have the right to access these facilities."
Haden said while foreign disease isn't a regular occurrence, inspectors pose a risk because farmers and livestock producers should limit who can access facilities.
Haden said the legislation also prevents county health inspectors from inspecting the livestock and dairy production facilities because of a lack of training in regards to livestock. He said agencies like the Department of Agriculture or Department of Natural Resources are more equipped to conduct inspections as they already do.