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GOP- Livestock pricing panel stacked against rural interests
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Republicans are accusing House Speaker Jim Kreider of stacking a special committee with urban lawmakers who may be less knowledgeable about a state livestock pricing law.
Kreider, D-Nixa, has appointed a special committee to consider repealing or changing the 1999 law during a special session that begins Wednesday.
Kreider, a supporter of the original legislation, said he is against an out-and-out repeal of the law, because it protects small and medium-sized farmers.
"From personal observation I know that the large meat packers favor the large volume producer over the family farmer, and that is a practice we cannot and will not tolerate," Kreider said. "But the purpose of the existing law is to help the smaller and medium-sized producers, not to hurt them."
Kreider said he is willing to listen to a variety of proposals and wanted knowledgeable, senior lawmakers to serve on the panel.
Rep. Chris Liese, D-Maryland Heights, will chair the House Special Committee on Price Discrimination. Rep. Mark Abel, D-Festus, will serve as vice chairman.
But House Republicans said that the make up of the panel disregards the interests of rural Missouri because Kreider selected a new committee rather than depending on the House Agriculture Committee.
"This is an agricultural issue that should be handled by those who have to deal with and live with the livestock marketing law and whose neighbors and constituents are affected by this problem," said House Minority Leader Catherine Hanaway of Warson Woods, a suburb of St. Louis.
Rep. Ken Legan, R-Halfway, said Kreider's appointments were a personal "affront" to agricultural producers in Missouri. He also accused Kreider of circumventing the agriculture committee.
"Turning over the issue to a hand-picked group of city residents is outrageous," said Legan, who noted that the majority of members on the special committee are from urban areas and just two of the 23 members of the Agriculture Committee were selected for the new panel.
Others on the committee are Rep. Robert Hilgemann, R-St. Louis; Rep. B.J. Marsh, R-Springfield; Rep. Ralph Monaco, D-Raytown; Rep. Jim Murphy, R-Crestwood; Rep. Peter Myers, R-Sikeston; Rep. Charlie Nordwald, R-Warrenton; Rep. Bill Ransdall, D-Waynesville; Rep. Henry Rizzo, D-Kansas City; and Rep. Phil Smith, D-Louisiana.
Kreider defended his picks and chided Republicans for their criticism.
"It's ridiculous and outrageous, exactly the opposite is true," Kreider said. "I do not want the big money corporate interests to be in control of this issue, hence the special committee."
Kreider said the appointments were made not on the basis of urban or rural residency, but rather on leadership.
Liese is chairman of the Banking Committee, Able is the House Speaker Pro Tem, Monaco heads the judiciary committee while Rizzo heads the commerce committee. Ransdall is chairman of the economic development panel while Smith is the senior Democrat on the agriculture committee.
The 1999 law prohibits packers from paying different prices to livestock producers unless those differences are based on the quality of the meat, transportation costs or an agreement to deliver the livestock at a specific date or time.
Farmers alleging price discrimination can sue packers and receive triple damages, costs and attorneys fees.
That threat, coupled with some uncertainty as to what qualifies as discrimination, led packers to eliminate one of the main ways they purchase livestock.
After the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Missouri's law in a May ruling, packers quickly announced that they were withdrawing from Missouri's cash markets.