By Katie Maupin
Over a "SB 113" chant, Don Nikodim, chair of Missouri Farmers Care coalition, welcomed what he believed to be one of the largest turnouts ever gathered at the State Capitol to support agriculture. An estimated crowd of more than 1,200 supporters stretched from the Capitol steps to the sidewalk across the south lawn to urge Gov. Jay Nixon to sign Senate Bill 113 and support a new compromise bill, Senate Bill 161.
The rally, organized by Missouri Farmers Care, focused on the joint effort of Governor Jay Nixon, Missouri legislative leaders, agriculture advocates, and animal welfare experts to craft a "Missouri Solution" for the problems caused by Proposition B.
"Today, hundreds of Missourians traveled to the Capitol to let their leaders know that Missourians won't stand idly by as big money, special interests attack our farm families," Nikodim said. "That's why Senate Bill 113 and the Missouri Solution are so important. We have to protect agriculture from radical groups like the Human Society of the United States."
SB 113, which has made its way through both the Missouri House of Representatives and Senate, will reverse some of the effects of Proposition B or the "puppy mill" proposition that passed by slim margins last November. However, for now, it sits idle on Nixon's desk.
Sen. Mike Parson noted how important this bill is to Missouri and was quick to point out that Senate Bill 113 isn't about special interest groups but protecting Missouri's agricultural industry from outside interests. These outside groups include HSUS, which Parson referred to as one of the worst organizations for agriculture.
Rep. Steve Tilley said it was those outside interests that brought $3 million into Missouri to deceive voters. "We're here to fix that," he told the rally crowd.
Director of Agriculture Jon Hagler said he is confident that Missouri can find a common sense solution, and he views that solution as Senate Bill 161, which is a compromise bill. He also said that work on the issue is far from finished and that it won't be until Democrats and Republicans work together to pass Senate Bill 161. Regardless if it is through SB 113 or 161, Hagler assures Missouri producers that their best interests are in mind.
"(Nixon) understands agriculture, and he understands that when agriculture does well, Missouri does well," he said.
All the speakers encouraged rally participants to call their local representatives and the governor and show their support for both bills.