Farmers who have animals would be sheltered from regulatory agencies other than the Missouri or federal agriculture departments under a bill set for a hearing Wednesday in Jefferson City.

The bill, filed by state Rep. Kent Haden, R-Mexico, is based on a similar bill from Indiana and could effectively bar county health departments and other agencies from inspecting operations with livestock, poultry, dairy, egg production or dog breeding.

The bill will be heard at noon Wednesday in the House Agriculture Policy Committee. It also bars any entity from inspecting those farms for compliance with rules from other states without permission from the farmer.

Haden, a freshman lawmaker, said he is sponsoring the bill at the request of state Rep. Sonya Anderson, R-Springfield and chair of the House Republican Caucus.

“Sonya Anderson was going to carry the bill and then she said, ‘Would you like to carry it?’ And I read it and I said, ‘Yes, I would like to carry it,’” Haden said. “Sonya Anderson was the person who had the bill ready to file.”

The bill’s language is something Anderson, a Springfield Republican and the House majority caucus leader, already was working on and Haden had shown interest in the bill, she said.

“Just with his background, I thought he would be a great handler for that type of legislation. I asked him if he would be interested in carrying it, and if not I was going to file it myself,” Anderson said.

Haden is a veterinarian who worked for MFA for 28 years.

Haden said he expects the bill to make it out of the committee. He wasn’t planning to introduce legislation as a freshman lawmaker, but that decision changed due to the need for the bill, he said.

"When I worked as a regulatory veterinarian for the state, I was sent on several (calls) where people went on farms and basically said ... 'I am with the Humane Society and I need to look at your livestock.' Well, they didn't have that authority, the sheriff did," Haden said. "This just clarifies those issues of who can go on those farms."

Haden’s bill is based on an Indiana Senate bill filed one month earlier than Haden filed his in February. Anderson said she gave the Indiana bill to House research to craft the current form of the bill.

The Indiana bill, however, goes into much more detail about interstate commerce since farm products from Indiana cross state lines. The Indiana bill also references the U.S. Constitution’s full faith and credit clause, stating it “requires each state to give full faith and credit to the public acts of every other state, compels other states to respect Indiana's laws on agriculture and animals.”

Producers in Missouri are concerned about out-of-state agencies or other groups coming into the state, said Bob Baker, executive director for the animal welfare lobbying group Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation. But Baker was uncertain what Haden’s bill would accomplish.

The provision requiring a farmer’s permission for any government or private entity to attempt to enforce rules of another state addresses a worry that is not real, Baker said.

Farmers do not need to be concerned with out-of-state agencies trying to impose out-of-state laws, Baker said.

“No one from Massachusetts or California has the authority to tell people how to raise their animals,” he said.

The only difficulty a producer in Missouri could face is in marketing their products out of state, Baker said.

“They might say you can’t market them in our state if you don’t raise them in a certain way, but they can’t come in and inspect them for compliance,” he said.

The bill initially limited official inspection agencies to the Missouri Department of Agriculture and the United States Department of Agriculture. Haden said there will be an amendment to include the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

"In essence, it says Department of Ag, USDA and DNR, and in the areas they deal with inspections of facilities, they're the ones to do it," Haden said. “We’ve had instances where humane groups came into farms and whipped out a badge and said, ‘We want to inspect your facility.’ They didn’t have clear authority to do that, so this is making sure they understand who has that authority.”

County health departments also have ordinances relating to agriculture but don't always have the qualified staff to conduct inspections, he said. Those county ordinances can duplicate already established regulations, he said.

The bill was not filed to be a legislative companion to a Senate bill, filed by state Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, which would nullify county health ordinances for agricultural operations if they are inconsistent or more stringent that existing state law.

It could have a similar effect to the Senate bill, Haden said.

“That’s one of the problems with health ordinances, is that they’re doubling up functions,” Haden said. “DNR has people, time, and they don’t have those people. Basically, most health ordinances were written so no one would build a facility.”

There are ongoing debates in the Missouri Senate relating to county health ordinances and farming operations. Cooper was among the regional counties to establish such an ordinance in the midst of ongoing legal battles relating to a proposed concentrated animal feeding operation. The Cooper County ordinance has a court-ordered injunction preventing enforcement while the multiple cases work their way through Missouri courts.

“These (county health ordinances) are basically depending so no one will build (a CAFO) because of the rules,” Haden said. “If they have to staff up to inspect those rules, they don’t have any staff, any money to do it. … It creates a patchwork of regulations that you don’t know where you’re at depending on which county you’re in or if you’re cross county. It’s just bad government.”

This patchwork, though, is intended to keep residents in various counties safe and each county has different needs, said Linn County Presiding Commissioner Dick King.

“We’re not against hog operations, chicken or whatever it is. We just want to keep some kind of control. ... These blanket House bills, Senate bills, especially when it comes to agriculture is not a good thing, because we deal with different things in our area,” he said.

Linn County’s health ordinance has been in effect for approximately 15 years, he said. The ordinance is more stringent than DNR’s for setbacks for manure application to fields and on which grade application is allowed, since Linn County is hilly. Hog operations, though, are less likely to go into a county with a stronger health ordinance, King admitted.

“They’ve tried for several years now to do away with health ordinances ... but I don’t know whether they will or not,” he said.

Sheriff's departments already have inspection authority on farm operations, and the conservation department has authority over individuals who maintain deer herds, Haden said. His bill just adds allowed agencies for the livestock, livestock byproducts and domesticated pet operations, he said.

"I've talked with all the ag groups and have their support. I've talked to most of the committee members and I'll talk to the rest of them Monday," Haden said.

cdunlap@gatehousemedia.com