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Skelton warns that misguided animal rights bills could hurt Missouri farmers
Skelton warns that misguided animal rights bills could hurt Missouri farmers

Congressman Ike Skelton
WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 4, 2010) — Having lived my whole life in rural Missouri, I learned at a very early age the importance of agriculture to our state. Farmers throughout Missouri personify many of the Midwestern values we hold most dear: hard work, dedication to family and community, faith, and patriotism.

Farmers and agriculture-related businesses throughout Missouri also contribute greatly to the state’s economic well-being. A 2009 report by the Missouri General Assembly highlights that agriculture adds over $12.4 billion annually to the Show-Me State economy and employs more than 245,000 people in our state.

Because Missouri benefits greatly from agriculture, it is important that Congress not consider misguided animal agriculture legislation that is pending in the House of Representatives. Two bills — one to ban antibiotic use in farm animals and one to extend radical animal welfare privileges to farm animals — are particularly troubling to me. These measures pose serious risks to America’s animal agriculture industry and to Missouri’s agriculturally driven economy and should not be considered in Congress.

The animal antibiotics bill, H.R. 1549, would amend federal law to restrict the use of FDA-approved antibiotics in farm animals. This bill would tie the hands of farmers and veterinarians by limiting their ability to make the best possible decisions on the health and welfare of farm animals. It would also increase farm operating expenses and reduce livestock herds in the United States, as similar laws in foreign countries have done. Experts have said that there is little scientific evidence to reinforce this drastic change in U.S. animal health policy and any attempt to push a bill like this during such a tough economy would be particularly misguided.

The other measure, H.R. 4733, is modeled after California’s radical animal welfare law that deemed special privileges apply to certain caged farm animals. H.R. 4733 would require American farmers who supply food to the federal government to provide certain pinned farm animals with “enough room to turn around and stretch their limbs.” This legislation is ridiculous. It would be impossible to implement and costly to producers.

Those of us from rural America — and particularly our farmers — understand that animal health and welfare is a top priority. After all, a farmer’s livelihood depends upon raising strong, healthy livestock to sell on the market. However, the approach to animal agriculture recommended by these two bills is not the right way forward. That is why it will be important for those of us from rural America to stand united against these legislative proposals. I will work with my colleagues in the House, both Republicans and Democrats, to ensure they are not considered during the 111th Congress.

Congressman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) serves as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Congressman Skelton’s website is at www.house.gov/skelton.

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